Sunday, January 29, 2012

THE SUPER BOWL OF ANTI-WORKER LEGISLATION

Harry Targ

“The heart of the Super Bowl action will be in downtown Indianapolis at the three-block interactive fan environment known as Super Bowl Village. AFC and NFC fans, families, visitors and locals alike can enjoy this ultimate, free fan zone that spans from Bankers Life Fieldhouse all the way to the NFL Experience at the Indiana Convention Center via the newly redesigned Georgia Street.

In addition to endless entertainment, interactive games, Tailgate Town, live concerts on two different stages, bars and other attractions, fans can also fly over Super Bowl Village with four zip lines that traverse Capitol Avenue.” (from
http://visitindy.com)


One hundred passionate activists from labor and occupy groups around the state of Indiana assembled at the State House on Saturday, January 28 to continue opposition to the pending “Right-To-Work for Less” bill which appears to be close to final endorsement by the legislature and Governor Mitch Daniels.

Ironically, Alcoa Corporation just announced the expansion of plant facilities in Lafayette, Indiana prior to the passage of the odious anti-worker bill that Governor Daniels has claimed will bring more jobs to Indiana. A plant in Iowa, a Right to Work State, lost its bid for the Alcoa plant expansion to Indiana, not yet such a state. Workers in the Lafayette plant are represented by United Steel Workers of America Local 115.

The Indiana House of Representatives last week voted 54-44 to endorse a Right-To-Work bill (several Republicans voted “no” with their Democratic colleagues). Now the bill returns to the Indiana Senate for discussion of amendments to the bill and final passage before it goes to the desk of the Governor for his signature. Despite the fact that he had promised labor in the past that he would not support such a bill, the Governor made it his top priority item in the 2012 legislative session.

The intense political battle over RTW has occurred in the context of enormous celebration of the impending arrival of 150,000 NFL fans to the Super Bowl which will be played in Indianapolis on Sunday February 5. Indianapolis big money interests have been lobbying for this event for years, hoping to put the city on the map for hosting huge money-making events such as the football classic.

Two buses of RTW protesters traveled from Lafayette, Indiana and Purdue University, 65 miles away, to the rally. After spirited speeches, including remarks from three state legislators, representatives from building trades unions, students, and professors, rally organizers led a march through the Super Bowl village in downtown Indianapolis. Marchers were seen by thousands of Super Bowl celebrants who were roaming around the village spending money in dozens of food and entertainment venues.

Demonstrators encountered some hostile reactions, including physical jostling, but also numerous thumbs up and clenched fists in support of protestors carrying placards demanding “Kill the Bill,” “Workers United Will Prevail” and “Occupy Purdue.”

Opposition to Right-To-Work has a decade-long history around the state since the governorship and the Indiana House of Representatives has shifted from Republican to Democrat and then Republican control. The Republicans, for their part, are committed to destroying the labor movement not only to reduce labor costs but also to end political opposition to their domination of state government.

Among the responses has been The Indiana Coalition for Worker Rights initiated by the Northwest Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO in 2006 “to educate and mobilize workers to demand and defend worker rights.” It pledged itself to;

1)educate union members and the public about the negative consequences of “Right to Work (for Less)” legislation;

2)challenge the general shift toward privatization of public institutions such as schools, libraries, and health care delivery systems;

3) mobilize citizens to support a living wage for all workers, affordable health care and education, and greater worker rights to participate in the workplace and the political system;

4)and work with others to create a coalition of informed citizens “who believe that the protection of workers’ rights is the bedrock of our democratic society.”

In the summer of 2011, a coalition representing various progressive groups in the Greater Lafayette community formed to work on reproductive health care, civil liberties, peace, and labor rights. The new organization, the Indiana Rebuild the American Dream Coalition, held jobs and justice rallies in downtown Lafayette in November.

Parallel to these developments the Tippecanoe Building and Construction Trades AFL-CIO and Occupy Purdue and Occupy Lafayette have mobilized around Right-To-Work and a whole range of issues that concern the 99 per cent.

It is clear from the experiences of small communities such as those in Tippecanoe County (Lafayette and West Lafayette are the population centers) and various other communities all across Indiana that so-called “outside” and “inside” strategies are needed to fight back against the draconian efforts to destroy worker rights, to promote acceptable living conditions for all, and to begin to create a better world.

Outside strategies include mass mobilizations, protests, educational forums, and dramatic public displays of peoples’ views in venues such as the Super Bowl celebrations.

Jim Ogden, Lafayette, union electrician from IBEW Local 668 articulated a strategy of how best to connect the mass mobilizations to electoral work, a so-called ‘inside strategy:’

“We realize that at this point where it’s at in the legislation. We probably will not stop this.

“At this point, I think we’re looking at this as a kickoff for the elections in November. And trying to do whatever we can to get the Republicans that had voted for this, to get them out of office.” (Journal and Courier, January 29, 2012, B3)

It is clear that the electoral process cannot alone defend workers rights. However, in the context of the immediate needs of the 99 percent, elections, in conjunction with massive public expressions of protest, must constitute a critical component of the work of progressives in the months ahead.









THE SUPER BOWL OF ANTI-WORKER LEGISLATION


Harry Targ

The heart of the Super Bowl action will be in downtown Indianapolis at the three-block interactive fan environment known as Super Bowl Village. AFC and NFC fans, families, visitors and locals alike can enjoy this ultimate, free fan zone that spans from Bankers Life Fieldhouse all the way to the NFL Experience at the Indiana Convention Center via the newly redesigned Georgia Street.



In addition to endless entertainment, interactive games, Tailgate Town, live concerts on two different stages, bars and other attractions, fans can also fly over Super Bowl Village with four zip lines that traverse Capitol Avenue.” (from
http://visitindy.com)

One hundred passionate activists from labor and occupy groups around the state of Indiana assembled at the State House on Saturday, January 28 to continue opposition to the pending “Right-To-Work for Less” bill which appears to be close to final endorsement by the legislature and Governor Mitch Daniels.



Ironically, Alcoa Corporation just announced the expansion of plant facilities in Lafayette, Indiana prior to the passage of the odious anti-worker bill that Governor Daniels has claimed will bring more jobs to Indiana. A plant in Iowa, a Right to Work State, lost its bid for the Alcoa plant expansion to Indiana, not yet such a state. Workers in the Lafayette plant are represented by United Steel Workers of America Local 115.



The Indiana House of Representatives last week voted 54-44 to endorse a Right-To-Work bill (several Republicans voted “no” with their Democratic colleagues). Now the bill returns to the Indiana Senate for discussion of amendments to the bill and final passage before it goes to the desk of the Governor for his signature. Despite the fact that he had promised labor in the past that he would not support such a bill, the Governor made it his top priority item in the 2012 legislative session.

The intense political battle over RTW has occurred in the context of enormous celebration of the impending arrival of 150,000 NFL fans to the Super Bowl which will be played in Indianapolis on Sunday February 5. Indianapolis big money interests have been lobbying for this event for years, hoping to put the city on the map for hosting huge money-making events such as the football classic.



Two buses of RTW protesters traveled from Lafayette, Indiana and Purdue University, 65 miles away, to the rally. After spirited speeches, including remarks from three state legislators, representatives from building trades unions, students, and professors, rally organizers led a march through the Super Bowl village in downtown Indianapolis. Marchers were seen by thousands of Super Bowl celebrants who were roaming around the village spending money in dozens of food and entertainment venues.



Demonstrators encountered some hostile reactions, including physical jostling, but also numerous thumbs up and clenched fists in support of protestors carrying placards demanding “Kill the Bill,” “Workers United Will Prevail” and “Occupy Purdue.”



Opposition to Right-To-Work has a decade-long history around the state since the governorship and the Indiana House of Representatives has shifted from Republican to Democrat and then Republican control. The Republicans, for their part, are committed to destroying the labor movement not only to reduce labor costs but also to end political opposition to their domination of state government.



Among the responses has been The Indiana Coalition for Worker Rights initiated by the Northwest Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO in 2006 “to educate and mobilize workers to demand and defend worker rights.” It pledged itself to:



1)educate union members and the public about the negative consequences of “Right to Work (for Less)” legislation;



2)challenge the general shift toward privatization of public institutions such as schools, libraries, and health care delivery systems;



3) mobilize citizens to support a living wage for all workers, affordable health care and education, and greater worker rights to participate in the workplace and the political system;



4)and work with others to create a coalition of informed citizens “who believe that the protection of workers’ rights is the bedrock of our democratic society.”



In the summer of 2011, a coalition representing various progressive groups in the Greater Lafayette community formed to work on reproductive health care, civil liberties, peace, and labor rights. The new organization, the Indiana Rebuild the American Dream Coalition, held jobs and justice rallies in downtown Lafayette in November.



Parallel to these developments the Tippecanoe Building and Construction Trades AFL-CIO and Occupy Purdue and Occupy Lafayette have mobilized around Right-To-Work and a whole range of issues that concern the 99 per cent.



It is clear from the experiences of small communities such as those in Tippecanoe County (Lafayette and West Lafayette are the population centers) and various other communities all across Indiana that so-called “outside” and “inside” strategies are needed to fight back against the draconian efforts to destroy worker rights, to promote acceptable living conditions for all, and to begin to create a better world.



Outside strategies include mass mobilizations, protests, educational forums, and dramatic public displays of peoples’ views in venues such as the Super Bowl celebrations.

Jim Ogden, Lafayette, union electrician from IBEW Local 668 articulated a strategy of how best to connect the mass mobilizations to electoral work, a so-called ‘inside strategy:’



“We realize that at this point where it’s at in the legislation. We probably will not stop this.



“At this point, I think we’re looking at this as a kickoff for the elections in November. And trying to do whatever we can to get the Republicans that had voted for this, to get them out of office.” (Journal and Courier, January 29, 2012, B3)



It is clear that the electoral process cannot alone defend workers rights. However, in the context of the immediate needs of the 99 percent, elections, in conjunction with massive public expressions of protest, must constitute a critical component of the work of progressives in the months ahead.








Sunday, January 15, 2012

NOTES ON "RIGHT TO WORK FOR LESS" IN INDIANA:THE HISTORIC BATTLE AGAINST WORKERS CONTINUES

Harry Targ

Fifty working people assembled at a town hall meeting in West Lafayette, Indiana on Saturday, January 14 to share information about the latest phase of Indiana’s battle over a new “Right-To-Work for Less” bill. The bill will be voted upon some time in the coming week.

One of the minority Democrats in the State House, Sheila Klinker, described the Republicans fast-track effort to get its Right-To-Work bill through the legislature and signed by Governor Mitch Daniels well before the National Football League Super Bowl game on February 5. The NFL players union has strongly condemned the bill.

Labor activists had attended the Governor’s State-of-the-State address three days earlier and booed him loudly as he made claims about how Right-To-Work would bring jobs to Indiana (even though he has already praised himself for alleged increases in new investors and jobs in the state during the first seven years of his reign without being a Right-To-Work state).

The Klinker update included reference to the upcoming meeting of the Indiana House of Representatives at which time that body will vote for and probably endorse the bill. Republicans have a 60 to 40 vote majority in that body (and an even bigger majority in the State Senate). Despite the odds, she and her Democratic colleagues support an amendment to the bill which would bring the issue to voters next fall in a referendum.

Although chances of blocking the national reactionary big money juggernaut and the state Chamber of Commerce from getting their way are slim, those for the referendum argue that, because the issue is not well-understood, many Hoosiers remain undecided about it. Since the bill would have such great consequences for workers, union and non-union alike, time to get educated and discuss it are desirable. Also from the standpoint of most Democrats a referendum would defuse the escalating political conflict around the state.

Most Indiana Republicans and the big money outside interests represented by such groups as the National Right to Work Committee and the America Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), want to move as quickly as possible. For them Indiana is a bellwether state in the former industrial heartland where unions have been historically strong, wages and benefits were good, and workers had a greater voice in the work place and the voting booth.

Generally, worker rights of all kinds have been superior in the Midwest compared with the 22 states of the South and Southwest where Right-To-Work is the law. After the 2010 election these national organizations increased efforts to apply their own “domino theory” to destroy worker rights. With the victories of reactionary candidates in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana reestablishing Right-To-Work in one state would lead, like a series of falling dominoes, to victories in the rest (They have already suffered setbacks in this plan in Wisconsin and Ohio). Indiana, the most conservative of these would be the best place to start. Reestablish Right-To-Work in Indiana (for a short time in the 60s, Indiana was a RTW state), and the other states would follow.

The Klinker update was followed by two impressive presentations by Tippecanoe County Building and Construction Trade Council President Eric Clawson and Treasurer James Ogden. Clawson gave an impassioned description of what unions meant to all workers. With both heart and intellect he made it clear that the quality of life and work would be made immeasurably worse if union rights were weakened by the Right-To-Work bill.

Ogden referred to numerous studies as he meticulously challenged each claim made by the bill’s supporters. These studies, often based on comparative data between the 22 Right-To-Work states and the rest, have overwhelmingly shown that the 22 have had less job creation, lower wages, worsened health and safety standards, and lowered public school graduation rates. Even though factors other than Right-To-Work status are also causally connected to these negative worker outcomes, Ogden and Clawson made it clear that the basic standard of living of most workers is hurt by any weakening of the right of workers to form and participate in unions.

It is important to understand that the struggle today in Indiana is part of a 250 year struggle waged off and on between capital and labor in the United States. From the formation of craft unions during the 1780s to the battle for the eight-hour day in the 1880s, to the use of police power, public and private, to destroy railroad and steel workers unions in the 1890s, to the massive general strikes, sit-ins, and other occupy movements of the 1930s, to the PATCO and Pittston strikes of the 1980s, workers have sought to defend their rights and their very survival. Capitalists have set out to make labor cheaper, more pliable, and vulnerable to shifts in profit-making from investments in factories to stocks, bonds and derivatives.

This latest phase of the struggle has its roots in the passage of the National Labor Relations (or Wagner) Act in 1935. This Act, based on efforts by Congress and President Roosevelt to mollify workers, who were striking all over the country, established the machinery for workers to form unions and procedures for collective bargaining.

From the time of the Unemployment Councils in big cities in 1931, to general strikes in 1934, to factory sit-ins, to the establishment of 40 unions of industrial workers, four million workers strong, in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1936, labor became a force to be reckoned with in national politics.

The peak of labor strength was reflected in the 1946 strike wave, the largest in U.S. labor history. Four million workers walked off the job in electronics, steel, auto, meat packing, mining, and the railroads. Workers wanted wartime caps on wages lifted, continuation of wartime price controls, greater union recognition at the workplace, health and pension systems, and the creation of a political system in which the political power of labor would be as strong as capital.

However, in the 1946 elections, Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress. A first order of business (much as in the 2012 Indiana legislature) was to destroy the power of organized labor. They passed the odious Taft-Hartley Act which was designed to defend the rights of capital in opposition to the National Labor Relations Act which was seen as special interest labor legislation.

Taft-Hartley banned the closed shop, wildcat strikes, strikes in solidarity with other workers, secondary boycotts and picketing, and gave the federal government the right to order striking workers to abandon strikes and return to work for 80 days. The act also established rules regarding reporting of finances and constricted the rights of unions to support political campaigns.

Taft-Hartley also required union leaders to sign affidavits proclaiming that they were not members of the Communist Party. Refusal to sign such statements could allow workers to challenge the authority of their unions to continue to represent them. Anti-Communist unions, it was hoped, would replace unions in which leaders failed to sign the affidavits. Since labor radicals played an instrumental role in organizing the CIO, Taft-Hartley saw undercutting labor militancy as central to winning the battle for capital against labor in post-war America.

To further limit the power of unions to represent the interests of all workers, Taft Hartley included Section 14b. This section allowed states to establish so-called Right-To-Work provisions. These provisions would allow workers to not join the unions that existed in their work sites. Unions were required to represent all workers in unionized work places, even those workers who refused to join their union. This meant that workers might take a “free ride” by getting important services, including negotiation of contracts and defense in grievances against bosses, without paying for them. The long-term impact, it was hoped, was to reduce the size and resources of organized labor.

In 1947, when Taft-Hartley was passed, powerful economic actors such as the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce, and huge auto, electronics, and meat packing corporations wanted to achieve several inter-connected goals.

They wanted to destroy the power of organized labor which had grown from the streets and the workplaces to the Democratic Party.

They wanted to launch an anti-Communist crusade to convince a skeptical American public that the United States needed to launch a Cold War against the Soviet Union, and alleged “communist” surrogates at home.

And, Southern politicians, particularly, wanted to defeat “Operation Dixie,” a CIO campaign to organize integrated trade unions in the South.

And, for sure, these economic interests wanted to disabuse American workers, unionized or not, of the idea that they had the right to participate in the political process equal to the wealthy and powerful.

So listening to Hoosier union brothers and sisters speak out now at rallies, before television cameras, at town hall meetings and in their communities and family gatherings, one feels pride and inspiration from the campaign to defeat Right-To-Work in Indiana.

And any kind of historical reflection has to lead to the conclusion that today’s struggle is part of the same struggles that go back years and years. These struggles, dare to say, are class struggles. But now-a-days the occupy movement has made it clear that this historic battle is one between the 99 percent, for all its variation and the one percent. “Right-To-Work for Less” may pass in Indiana in 2012, but with odds like 99 percent versus one percent, it is clear which side will achieve lasting victory in the years ahead.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITxJVjFkNV4&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Friday, January 6, 2012

BRUTE FACTS AND POLITICAL CHOICES: THINKING ABOUT 2012

Harry Targ

The year 2011 has truly been an exciting year for progressives. Arab spring sent shock waves across the Middle East, launching a campaign for democratization that will ultimately impact every regime in the region. Also Arab spring showed the rest of the world, and particularly the young, that mass mobilization, challenging economic control and military might with people power, can affect history.

The spirit of grassroots anger, activism, a growing sense of solidarity across races, gender, class, and national boundaries planted the seeds for the rise of a new age out of the old. As the young people in Tahrir Square knew from the beginning of their protest, the struggle will be long, sometimes bloody, but the 99 per cent, in the end, will win.

But 2011 also showed the world that politics can be ruthless. Masses of people died in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan and in various locations in Africa, Europe, and North America. The United States shifted priorities from sending the military everywhere to supporting private armies and high tech drone warfare. Secret intelligence agencies now define the threats to the United States who are targeted for assassination. Meanwhile the mass media has celebrated executions abroad and at home and the deaths of ostracized leaders. In many ways 21st century global culture, has become a “death culture,” in its entertainment as well as its politics. Killing has become fun.

Within the United States, political forces have been unleashed that are trying to return politics to the Dark Ages:

-escalating the shift in wealth and power from the many to the few
-destroying the historic right of workers to organize to better articulate their interests
-privatizing education, health care, and basic concern for the environment
-transferring control of women’s bodies from themselves to various churches and private interest groups
-increasing the power of police to control people’s lives, using pepper spray, SWAT teams, covert operations, and spying to serve the status quo
-eliminating longstanding legal procedures that have given some protection to people, particularly minorities, who have been accused of crimes
-using, abusing, and disposing of immigrant workers.

So at the dawn of the 2012 the world continues its contradictory path. And as the forces of light and darkness contend, progressives once again are confronted with political choices. As the debates escalate, particularly in the electoral arena, some of the summary data I accumulated just after the 2010 election remains relevant:

From data reported in the media between November 3rd and 10th, 2010 the new United States Senate will be comprised of 51 Democratic Senators and 2 Independents and 47 Republicans. The Republicans experienced their biggest gains in the House of Representatives winning 239 seats to 189 for the Democrats…. The 2011 distribution of the governorships will include at least 29 Republicans and 18 Democrats. In sum, the elections brought Republican control to the House of Representatives and significant shifts in gubernatorial contests which will impact on the redistricting of House of Representative districts for the next decade.

At the state level, Republican candidates won 650 seats in legislative assemblies, taking control of 19 legislative bodies from Democrats. For example, Republicans gained both state houses in Alabama, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. They won an additional house to take control of both houses in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Through gubernatorial and legislative victories at the state level Republicans will control the designation of 170 congressional districts while Democrats will control 70. The rest, about 200, will be determined by bipartisan bodies.

Republicans won three state legislatures in the Northeast, eight in the South, nine in the Midwest, and five in the West. Looking at a USA map of red and blue states, 27 states will be red in the next period.”


As I write, Indiana workers are marching inside and outside the state capital protesting the backroom passage of a new Right-to-Work law. Indiana has not been a right to work state since the 1960s. In 2008, the Indiana House of Representatives consisted of 52 Democrats and 47 Republicans. Today the House has 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats.

And as a result of the 2010 election, not only is it likely that Right-to-Work legislation will become a reality in Indiana but education and resources for women’s reproductive health will be even more vulnerable.

There are similar stories to be told in each and every state, as well as in the national political arena. And, at the same time, there are differences in politics and history in each state and locale. And make note: none of this has much to do with the selection of nominees for president of the United States. That story is the circus, the Super Bowl--Romney or Santorum, the “moderate” Republican or the “social conservative.”

So progressives have a lot to think about in 2012: how to protect the people, the 99 percent, from all the hurt that they increasingly will experience in the short-run while at the same time moving “inch by inch, row by row” to the vision that animated Arab Spring, Ohio, and Madison, Wisconsin.