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. 897 — August 1 - 22, 2011

Editorial:
To Get Rid of the Debt
– Stop Bailing out Big Business & the Banks!

Aug 1, 2011

After weeks of agonizing debate about the budget deficit and scare stories about a government default, the two parties finally sat down to do what they had been going to do all along – use this melodrama to push through a range of attacks on the standard of living of the population.

Certainly, if the U.S. defaulted, it would set off a massive hurricane rushing through global financial markets, making the financial collapse of 2008 seem like a light summer storm.

The U.S. government debt – about 14.3 trillion dollars – is the biggest in the world – bigger than the total debt owed by all 18 of the European countries put together.

If the U.S. stopped paying out to its bondholders, some of the biggest banks in the world would quickly collapse. And countries around the world, stuck with hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. bonds, would be pulled down in the maelstrom also. Not to mention what would happen to funds the U.S. government supposedly holds in trust: Social Security for example, to which the government owes 2.7 trillion dollars; or cities and states, to which the federal government owes a half trillion dollars.

Given the predominant role played by the dollar in the world’s financial activities, economic activity would grind to a halt.

But the Democrats and Republicans were not going to make the U.S. default. And everyone knew it. Not because they care about the catastrophe a default would cause to the population, but because their goal was to appease global financial markets so the U.S. government could go on borrowing, adding to its debt.

That debt exists today because the U.S. government, for decades, has financed profits for its biggest financial and industrial groups by floating loans.

The big “bail-out” during the financial crisis of 2008-09 was only the latest in a long string of “bail-outs” for big business and big banking – that is, big capital. Before the “gifting” was done in 2008-09, the U.S. government – through the Treasury and the Federal Reserve – had provided the big banks and other financial companies with a total of 14 trillion dollars in gifts, loans, reserves, credit guarantees. To give so much money so quickly, the government itself had to take out big loans – from some of the big banks to which it gave the money!!!!

Now, some of those loans are coming due. And – according to the two parties – the population is supposed to pay.

It’s obvious that if the goal were to reduce the government’s debt, the two parties would have cut off all funding to the banks. First thing!

Second, they would have reinstated the tax code to the way it was in 1940, when individuals paid only 40% of all taxes and corporations and the banks paid 60%. (Today, it’s reversed – more than reversed: individuals pay 80%, while corporations pay only 20%).

Third, they would have revised the rate on individual taxes, putting it back to the way it was in 1940 – when the wealthiest paid almost all the individual taxes.

None of that would overcome the deeply entrenched problems of a foundering capitalist economy. But at least, they would take us a giant step forward, toward removing the weight that the capitalists have imposed on the rest of society.

But the politicians didn’t propose that, did they? That’s enough to show who they represent – and it’s not us!

Well, let them get their dirty hands off Medicare! Hands off Social Security! Hands off unemployment benefits, off Medicaid, off the highways, off the schools!

Pages 2-3

Close the Only Water Park in Detroit?
B.S.!

Aug 1, 2011

In the week of 100 degree weather, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano raised the possibility that Detroit’s only water park could be closed! Ficano said the county must make changes because the park doesn’t bring in enough income.

Are they crazy?” voiced one resident at a rally organized to protest. Another resident said she couldn’t believe that they have the nerve after people in the city voted for the parks millage that was to generate 10.6 million dollars a year. She said, “What about all that money? You’ve got the money, do you think we forgot?”

Exactly. Not only did residents vote to tax themselves even further in order to save parks in the city, each child already has to pay $3 just to enter the water park.

It’s obvious this chiseling political scum needs a boot in the rear end to make him remember.

Where Is the Money?

Aug 1, 2011

We all know who pays taxes and who gets out of it. Here are the latest figures for corporations. For every dollar we pay in individual federal taxes, corporations in the U.S. pay 25 cents.

Is that the only way to collect taxes? Of course not.

In the 1940s, the corporations paid $1.50 for every dollar the taxpayers paid.

Think of the billions there would be if taxes were collected today in the same proportion as then!

Is There Really No Money in California?

Aug 1, 2011

California claims there is no money for public services. We know they are not looking in the right places.

The wealthiest one% of the California population, with an average income of 2.3 million dollars each, paid only 7.8% of their income in state and local taxes, much less than everyone else. The poorest 20% coughed up 11.1% of their income in taxes.

Not true there is no money for services.

Get it from those who don’t pay – the wealthy!

Budget Deficit Lies

Aug 1, 2011

The politicians say that if they can’t work out a budget deal, the government won’t have money to send out Social Security checks.

Why not? Social Security has a trust fund, which is supposed to hold the 2.6 trillion dollar surplus that Social Security built up. Did the fund just disappear? Who stole it? Was it part of the trillions the government gave to the banks? Did it go to the corporations in the tax cut deal?

Whoever got it, get it back from them! Retirees need their monthly check to live.

Utility Rate Increase:
More Excuses!

Aug 1, 2011

Utility rates are wildly increasing everywhere in the U.S. This month, Southern California Edison announced that it wants 3.3 billion dollars in rate increases over three years. This means up to eleven% increase per year.

Edison produced many excuses for this steep hike. But one excuse is striking: they say that the utility needs the money to increase employee pay. Who is this employee in their mind? It’s certainly not those who do the work – because they haven’t been getting any increases, only cuts!

No one should be fooled – these increases go to Edison’s shareholders, to Edison’s banks, and to its executives.

Cheating the Children

Aug 1, 2011

Georgia state investigators found that dozens of Atlanta public school teachers and principals have been altering student answer sheets on state-mandated tests since 2001. Apparently, district officials not only knew about the systematic cheating, but encouraged it. In fact, district higher-ups retaliated against and even fired teachers who reported the cheating.

This scandal is not the first of its kind. Some other large school districts, including Houston which George Bush once pointed to as a model, were also caught “cheating.”

Teachers said that they were under enormous pressure to raise test scores. Under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, passed during the Bush presidency, schools have to improve their test scores every year – an impossible goal under the best of circumstances. And today, because of government cuts in education funding, the schools are choked for money, supplies, text books and classroom space.

Nonetheless, Republicans and Democrats have joined together to keep NCLB in place – and state officials have used its unreasonable requirements to close down schools in working-class neighborhoods, jamming more kids into fewer public classrooms.

Is there cheating going on in the public school system? Absolutely. State and federal officials are cheating workers’ children of an education.

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Corporate Tax Holiday?
More Money in Their Pockets

Aug 1, 2011

Some politicians are proposing another tax holiday for big corporations – with the b.s. excuse that it will create jobs.

A “tax holiday” lets big companies, like GE or Google – who already juggle their books to keep profits overseas – bring back this money. If it returns as profits from overseas during the “tax holiday,” then the companies will be taxed only at a 2 or 3% rate.

In reality, GE used this same game – a “tax holiday” – to avoid taxes in 2004. With or without a “tax holiday,” GE has avoided paying taxes on its 14 billion dollars in profits – and received federal bailout millions and laid off workers. In addition, its pals in Congress, who specialize in corporate loopholes, gave GE a three billion dollar tax credit.

No jobs were created! Only profits.

The Plan behind Detroit’s Mayor’s “Test” Plan

Aug 1, 2011

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing finally announced his plan to shrink the city and concentrate city services. The most obvious thing about the plan he announced is that it is hard for anyone to figure it out. It came complete with a color-coded map with three types of areas designated on it and a chart listing four levels of 19 different services – and all combinations thereof.

Bing and the city fathers must have realized they would have legal difficulties pulling off their plan to “shrink the city,” so they are still proposing to do this, but in a way that makes it less clear what they are doing. They designated three “test” areas. One is the Palmer Woods/ Sherwood Forest district, the wealthiest area of the city which is marked for even more services than it already gets. Another is the Boston-Edison area, an old mansion neighborhood they want to rehabilitate, which will also get more services. And the last is Southwest Detroit, an area that currently has a certain amount of business development.

For the rest of the city, no one knows exactly what cuts in services they will get. For many areas it means that garbage still won’t get picked up, and water and sewage lines will still break.

But there’s one thing that’s very clear, and that is what the areas marked “distressed” (the worst possible designation), can expect: cutbacks on public lighting, lower enforcement of building codes, less maintenance of trees – meaning more power outages, and less boarding up of vacant buildings. Not surprisingly, these same areas will get more building demolitions and funding for assembling land for redevelopment – meaning handing the land over to the developers.

In reality, it is nothing but a jigsaw puzzle of a plan whose real aim is to push people out and justify cutting city services – except for a few wealthy areas – and to hide it all behind a bunch of confusion.

Airlines Take the (Tax) Money and Run

Aug 1, 2011

Congress recently failed to approve a budget for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) causing a halt in the collection of some taxes on airfares. According to the industry, the price of an average airline ticket had been about $300, with $239 of this going to the airline, and $61 going in taxes to the FAA.

But when the collection of the $61 in taxes was halted on July 1, the ticket price did not go down to $239. Instead the airlines simply kept all the money that had been going to the government in taxes, pocketing 25 million to 30 million dollars more per day!

There’s more than one way to skin consumers – that’s the airlines motto!

Pages 4-5

Chile:
2,400 Miners on Strike for Wages

Aug 1, 2011

Almost 2,400 workers of the biggest private copper mine in the world, La Escondida in the mountains of Chile, went on strike on July 21st. Their demand is a production bonus of $10,800 after taxes, while management is proposing a bonus of $6,000 before taxes.

This strike movement really began with 17,000 workers at Codelco, the government-owned company that is the biggest producer of copper in the world with 11% of world production. The miners there were angered by a reorganization plan, actually a threat to privatize the company.

At first the strike was planned to last 24 hours, and it completely stopped mine production, as well as the loading of copper on ships at the nearest port. But when the bosses threatened penalties, calling the strike illegal and threatening layoffs, the miners continued the strike.

Escondida is majority owned by the giant British-Australian mining conglomerate, BHP Billiton. BHP Billiton produces more than a million tons of copper a year, almost 7% of world production.

The miners are angry because their production bonus has dropped dramatically over the last 10 months, going from $650 to $195 a month. Meanwhile, the price of copper was tending up.

The miners were also angered by video camera spying, bad working conditions causing a high rate of serious diseases such as cancer, and not being able to be off on all national holidays.

Management complains about losing 30 million dollars a day due to the strike, which, a union leader calculated, proves the mine owners can afford the bonus. It comes to less than one% of BHP Billiton’s profits.

Israelis Protest High Cost of Living

Aug 1, 2011

Tens of thousands of Israelis coming from all over the country demonstrated in Tel Aviv on July 23rd. They protested against the country’s high cost of housing, which has risen in a spectacular fashion. In Tel Aviv rents have increased by 73% in six years! It’s become almost impossible for students and low-wage workers to find decent housing at a reasonable cost.

Financial speculators have free rein to profit when affordable housing is scarce. Whether it’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing administration or his Labor Party predecessors, all of them devoted an increasing share of the Israeli budget to military expenses, which are 7% of the Gross Domestic Product. This amount is two to three times higher than military spending in most big western countries. Israel has also spent considerable funds on the huge wall separating Israel from the West Bank. And the government continues to build housing and infrastructure for the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Meanwhile, public services have been cut in many categories.

The mobilization began two weeks ago when a 24-year-old woman had to move because she couldn’t pay an enormous rent increase for her small apartment in Tel Aviv. She made an appeal on the Internet, calling on Israelis to set up tents in the middle of Rothschild Boulevard, in a really wealthy part of Tel Aviv. To her great surprise, in a few days, many youth responded to her appeal and the movement spread like wildfire in Israel’s other big cities. It became popular probably thanks to earlier protests – like a recent one to eliminate an increase in the gas tax. Another protest led to a reduction in the price of cottage cheese, a staple in the Israeli diet.

There have been almost no important social protests in Israel for quite a while. Even if the current discontent has its limits, it’s good to see a part of the population mobilize in this way. Sooner or later the population must refuse to go on paying the price for the warlike policy of Israel’s ruling class.

Norway:
A Vile Killer with Disgusting Ideas

Aug 1, 2011

The assassinations in Oslo, capital of Norway, and on the island of Utoya, on July 22nd, resulted in at least 76 deaths.

Anders Behring Breivik, the killer, executed dozens of youth, then proudly took credit for his act, which he said was “cruel but necessary.” He wanted to be recognized as “the greatest monster since World War II.” Breivik, who calls himself a Christian conservative, left a manifesto of 1500 pages on the Internet with disgusting justifications. He mixed together his hatred of foreigners, particularly Muslims, and the “multiculturalism which is rotting Norway.” He speaks of “the use of terrorism as a means of waking up the masses” and affirms that “when one decides to kill, it’s best to kill a great number rather than not enough.”

The killer said he wanted to aim at the “Marxist” ideology responsible for the opening of national borders and the loss of the white Christian European identity. This was the reason he gave for attacking youth at a Labor Party vacation camp and a government office building.

Breivik may have acted alone, independent of any organized group, methodically carrying out an elaborate personal plan, set long before and coldly executed. He seems, first and foremost, to be a mad killer, fascinated by arms and obsessed with the fact of killing. But these “ideas” weren’t invented by him. He drew from the more or less common sources of the far right ideology and from all those who use racism and anti-communism, with a more or less avowed fascination for Nazi ideology and methods. Their idea is that all those they oppose must be massacred.

Different European leaders of far right movements pretend they aren’t responsible for Breivik’s act.

They are hardly the only ones to stir up such racist and anti-foreign ideas. Glenn Beck, former news host on Fox News, in reporting the Norway tragedy, compared the Norwegian Labor Party camp to the Hitler youth. In 2007, Peter King, a congressman from New York state, called American Muslims “an enemy within.” King now heads a congressional committee for Homeland Security, which he has used to pillory Muslims.

If the leaders of the far right aren’t responsible for Breivik’s craziness, they are at least responsible for contributing to spread and make commonplace the ideas he seized on.

Breivik’s act makes us remember where his ideas have already led in the past and where they can lead if they are not combatted.

Swimming Together

Aug 1, 2011

Police have hauled in for questioning 28 Israeli women. Their cases are pending. Their “crime”? They have been illegally transporting Palestinian mothers and children from the southern part of the West Bank, which is landlocked, on day trips to the beach. Without having to ask the Israeli military for a pass, Palestinian women and children are enjoying the Mediterranean Sea – most for the first time.

What a 66-year-old Israeli widow began one year ago, has become a small, determined movement. The women call themselves: “We Will Not Obey.”

A reporter for the New York Times witnessed one of their recent outings:

“Skittish at first, then wide-eyed with delight, the women and girls entered the sea, smiling, splashing and then joining hands, getting knocked over by the waves, throwing back their heads and ultimately laughing with joy.”

In a published statement, the organizers declared:

“...We, all ordinary citizens, took this step with a clear and resolute mind. In this way we were privileged to experience one of the most beautiful and exciting days of our lives, to meet and befriend our brave Palestinian neighbors, and together with them, to be free women, if only for one day.”

When asked her thoughts, one of the Israeli women stated:

“For 44 years, we have occupied another country. I am 53, which means most of my life I have been an occupier. I don’t want to be an occupier. I am engaged in an illegal act of disobedience. I am not Rosa Parks, but I admire her, because she had the courage to break a law that was not right.”

What Is the Muslim Brotherhood?

Aug 1, 2011

The Muslim Brotherhood has had a long and tangled history as an extremely fundamentalist religious and right-wing political organization, aligned with different imperialist powers.

It was set up in 1928 with money from Britain’s Suez Canal Company, and continued to be paid by British secret services. After World War II, it got funding regularly from the U.S., funneled to it through the reactionary regime of Saudi Arabia, which often added its own oil money. Both before and after World War II, the Brotherhood mobilized gangs to carry out attacks on strikes and it pushed a vast anti-communist campaign in Egypt, carrying out assassinations of communist and worker militants.

During the early years of Nasser’s regime – in the 1950s, after the coup of the colonels helped throw out the vestiges of British rule in Egypt – the Brotherhood conspired with Britain in plots to assassinate Nasser, and did actually assassinate lower-ranking members of Nasser’s regime. Finally, the Brotherhood was expelled from Egypt by Nasser, only to base itself in Saudi Arabia, where the Saudi regime funded it and where it worked to reinforce that regime’s reactionary version of Islam.

The Brotherhood was brought back to Egypt after Nasser’s death in 1970, sometimes to be considered illegal, sometimes not. But even when illegal, as in 2005, it was given a place in the Egyptian parliament.

Egypt:
Ongoing Strikes
– the Only Hope for the Revolution

Aug 1, 2011

On Friday, July 29, tens of thousands of people filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square, calling for an “Islamic state.” It was the first time that this slogan has led such a large demonstration in Tahrir Square – and it was, no doubt, a response to earlier demonstrations.

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of people have been demonstrating in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez against the military and police. Camping out in Tahrir Square, protesters have been demanding that those responsible for killing more than 900 demonstrators and injuring another 6000 last January be held accountable. The protesters have been demanding a cleaning up of the police and military, and that Mubarak’s generals, who are still in power, be removed from their posts and be tried with him.

Some demonstrators have also been calling for social justice – for putting “the poor first.” And this is a reflection of an ongoing strike movement which, in recent weeks, has touched the workers of the Suez Canal Zone – where private subcontractors pay workers as low as 23 dollars a month! At the Suez Canal Shipyard Co., strikers have been demanding a 40% pay raise, decent living conditions and sanitary measures. Here and there, striking workers have also been demanding that protesters who were arrested during recent demonstrations be set free.

In fact, Egypt’s industrial workers have organized, demonstrated and struck their companies over the last few years. In doing so, the workers effectively loosened the grip of the dictatorship and paved the way for the demonstrations in Tahrir Square. And after Mubarak’s fall, strikes have continued despite the generals’ open threats.

Forced into the defensive by demonstrations and strikes, the generals and bosses are playing the religion card. Are protesters calling for a democratic state, where the generals could be punished for their crimes? Call for a religious state, in which any brutal military man – or crooked boss, for that matter – can have his place by professing “piety”! Are workers demanding better wages? Call for charity for the poor, which every organized religion in history has used to gain the allegiance of the poor!

And sure enough, the big demonstration in Tahrir Square was organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious political organization which is an ally of the generals. Since Mubarak’s fall, the Muslim Brotherhood has consistently called for “order,” just like the generals themselves, and it took part in writing the new constitution that the generals hastily pushed through last spring. And the Brotherhood also has a long history of sending thugs to strikes and protests to attack workers – especially women workers – in the name of “morality.”

If the Muslim Brotherhood decided to bring tens of thousands of people to Tahrir Square in the name of religion, it’s because the generals gave it their OK. And if the Muslim Brotherhood is capable of mobilizing so many people, it’s because, despite being called “illegal” on and off during all the decades of military dictatorship, it was helped to take root in the population, especially in the middle class. The Brotherhood has a solid, even controlling, presence in practically every organization of professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, university professors. And it controls the biggest organization of university students.

For the millions of Egyptians who are condemned to abject poverty today, liberation means, above all, decent jobs and decent wages. So the strike movement represents a great hope for the poor. To the extent that there is a pro-democracy movement in Egypt today, its fate too is tied to the workers’ movement. The organized workers, with the crucial part they play in the economy, represent the only social force capable of bringing the combined forces of the military and bosses to their knees.

The big Muslim Brotherhood rally in Tahrir Square is another reminder that the Egyptian Revolution is under attack. The only hope for the revolution to move forward is for the ongoing fight of the Egyptian working class to succeed.

Pages 6-7

Why No Air Conditioning at Cat?

Aug 1, 2011

The recent hot weather has been brutal. Temperatures inside Caterpillar’s EMD plant were 120º in many departments. Why isn’t there air conditioning at EMD? Buildings like the United Center and large malls are air conditioned.

Caterpillar, which owns EMD, could easily afford to put it in. Don’t tell us there’s no money for it. Caterpillar made one billion dollars in profits in just three months, April - June.

DPS:
Massive Attack on Employees and Students

Aug 1, 2011

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts has begun a huge attack on all 10,000 school employees – from teachers through bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

Roberts says the state’s new Emergency Manager law allows him to impose whatever he wants, even rewriting union contracts – so he’s imposed a 10% wage cut on all DPS workers across the board, and suspended annual raises. And, he’s making all employees pay 20% of all of their health care coverage.

Many employees, like bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers, make just $20,000 a year. A wage cut like this will be devastating to them and their families – and the extra health costs could take an extra 10% of their wages!

And many Detroit teachers would see their pay slashed by more than $7,000 a year.

Roberts points out that his salary will also be cut by 10%. But he makes $250,000 a year – more than ten times as much as the lowest-paid workers whose wages he’d be cutting!

Roberts claims that all this is necessary to protect the education of DPS children. But this is blatantly untrue. The cuts he’d make in employee pay would directly affect the quality of education.

Roberts plans to suspend pay to teachers for oversize classrooms – which means he plans to see class sizes overstuffed, leaving teachers with less time for each student.

He’d suspend pay for unused sick and personal days – which means teachers would be forced to use up all their unused days before they retire, leaving them in the classroom less.

He’d suspend pay for lost prep periods, meaning more teachers will be asked to cover for each other’s absences – losing time to prepare their own classes.

He’d suspend premiums for Special Ed programs, among the most difficult teaching positions of all.

He’d suspend bonuses for earning extra teaching certificates – meaning he wants untrained teachers.

And, astoundingly, he’d suspend payments to employees who are assaulted on the job!

Roberts’ attack on DPS employees has nothing to do with saving the district, or with better educating the students. He was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to do exactly what he’s doing – to slash the amount of public money being spent on education, so that more of it can be handed over to corporations!

Auto Workers Face No-Strike Trap

Aug 1, 2011

The UAW (United Auto Workers) contract with the Detroit 3 automakers expires on September 14. The companies demand that workers continue to sacrifice.

Detroit 3 workers have had no base-pay raises since 2004. Even UAW president Bob King admits that concessions since 2007 have cost workers between $7000 and $30,000 in wages. In fact, it’s more than that. But this gives some idea. Other ongoing sacrifices include briefer breaks, loss of rights on the job, punishing attendance and transfer rules, the vicious “two-tier” wage scale, and the VEBA, which threatens to destroy the promise once made to retirees for medical coverage.

But a Chrysler spokesperson said, regarding raises, “It won’t happen. Not here.” GM’s CEO, Dan Akerman, echoed, “The world ... does not tolerate uncompetitive cost structures.” Evidently his own multi-million-dollar world is exempt from this rule!

And what did the union leaders say, those who are charged with defending the workers’ interests? UAW president Bob King said, “It doesn’t do our members any good if we raise fixed costs.” As if the costs of workers’ groceries and gas never go up!

In fact, there is so little difference between the official statements of the union and the companies, that the message to the workforce is crystal clear: “Too bad for you, this time.”

If they are so arrogant to dismiss workers’ needs so casually, it’s because of the no-strike arbitration clause. This trap was forced on GM and Chrysler workers by the government in 2009 with the support of UAW officials.

Under the no-strike rule, if GM or Fiat don’t get everything they want, they will say, no, we’ll take it to arbitration. They know that the arbitrators are not workers, but lawyers and professionals bound by rules that tip far toward corporate interests.

The UAW top leadership, for its part, can and will tell workers to vote yes on whatever wretched contract comes out – “or else it will go to arbitration and that will be even worse.” After pulling this trickery at GM and Chrysler, the UAW will try to convince Ford workers, “We have to follow the pattern,” even though Ford workers are not under the arbitration clause and do retain the right to strike.

Arbitration/no strike was designed to make workers feel powerless.

But the workforce is not powerless and the higher-ups know it. Why did GM give workers a $4000 bonus in March? Why did Ford give $5000? And why did Chrysler give a $750 bonus – even though such bonuses went above and beyond the contracts? Because managers wanted to calm workers down, before corporate profits and the executive salaries and bonuses were announced. They were trying to buy their way out of trouble.

In fact, the arbitration/no strike clause is only a piece of paper. It has power only if the workers accept it. The workers – with their collective, coordinated power over production – can tear it up.

Page 8

What Comes Next?

Aug 1, 2011

Nearly 1000 public sector workers turned out in Detroit to protest government attacks on wages and benefits, and cuts in public services. Workers from most state departments and five different counties came out, rushing to get there, since they were on their lunch time! Teachers and Wayne County workers came out, too. And several fire trucks and a police cruiser went by blaring their horns. The crowd was raucous!

Public workers at every level are being attacked. We’re all being told we have to pay for a crisis we didn’t create – so the rich can keep raking in billions!

Well, the workers who came to demonstrate had had enough! Union big wigs, like Cindy Estrada, and politicians may have pushed themselves up to the microphones – but the workers expressed themselves in the many chants that local union activists led with their bullhorns: “They say cut back, we say fight back!” or “They say bottom line, we say front line!” or simply “Shut It Down!” – meaning Lansing.

The protest ended with the chant: “We’ll be back!” The sooner, the better!

New Attacks on State Workers in Michigan

Aug 1, 2011

Layoff notices were just announced by the Michigan Budget Director that could idle 2,500 state employees as of October 1, 2011. A spokesperson said this was part of “contingency plans” being drawn up to cover 145 million dollars in “labor cost savings” that were “built into” the 2011-12 budget that starts October 1st.

In other words, it’s an extortion threat aimed at forcing workers to go along with new concessions the state is demanding. This attack is the latest outrage from a state government that for decades has cut state worker jobs, pay and benefits while also slashing services to the population.

So far this year, Michigan’s executive branch has spent 64% of its budget on private contracts with corporations. Certainly the logical place to look for money in a budget shortfall would be the area with the biggest expenditures! The state hires contract employees to do the work “in house.” Huge savings would flow from cutting out the profits of the corporate contractors.

Or here’s another idea. If the state needs more money, take it away from the gigantic 1.8 billion dollars in new tax cuts the state just gave to corporations.

But, NO, the state intends that workers pay for those corporate profits with their own wages and jobs.

That was the whole point of decades of state employee concessions. In the early 1980s there were 78,000 state workers. Now the state workforce is 47,100. Piling more work on fewer workers is saving the state more than a billion dollars every year, a billion they’ve already given away to business. The state workforce, on the other hand, has lost more than 10% of their income to inflation since 1991.

State workers hired after 1997 get no guaranteed pension. This is another half a billion dollars every year workers lose.

In the words of one union worker: “Agreeing to concessions does not save jobs. It only ensures they will be back for more.”

And the state is coming for more. The governor asked legislators to vote after the summer recess on revoking retiree healthcare for anyone hired after 1997. For those hired before 1997, the politicians demand a 4% pay cut or a worker’s pension will be frozen and that person thrown into a 401K plan.

Why should workers stand quietly by while the state steadily lowers their standard of living? State workers do all the work providing services the state is obligated to provide. This gives the workers the power they need to protect themselves.

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