Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Please note I have a new phone number...


Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ethics and Morality

This statement was distributed to a group of people who came together to discuss ethics and morality at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Friday, March 23, 2007 in the Hekman Library.

A Question of Ethics and Morality

By: Alan L. Maki, Director of Organizing; Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council

Contact E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

Ethics and morality of income distribution in the casino industry.

The Associated Press circulated a story that appeared in the Grand Rapids Press on Monday, March 19, 2007 [Page B6] which was rewritten from a story in the Kalamazoo Gazette written by Michelle Miron. Chris Knape covers this topic for the Grand Rapids Press. Not once has a union organizer been quoted in the “news” stories.

As everyone is fully aware, many newspaper articles have appeared concerning this Allegan County casino that is in the works which has been shamefully approved by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm who intentionally refused to address the issue of the rights of casino workers; this “agreement” is now awaiting legislative approval.

To date not one single newspaper article has mentioned the working conditions under which some 1,800 workers will be employed in this casino operation. Everyone is too busy focusing on money and profits.

In fact, these 1,800 casino workers will be employed at poverty wages, without real benefits, without a voice in the workplace, in a smoke-filled casino without any rights under Michigan labor laws, federal labor laws, or the National Labor Relations Act; just like the more than 250,000 casino workers presently employed in the “Native American owned and operated” casinos across the Midwest.

The average casino worker in the Midwest presently makes less than $8,000.00 per year; far from the $40,000.00 figure the news media touts.

The majority of casino workers are women of child-bearing age whose health is most affected by second-hand smoke and for whom this government imposed poverty is a severe hardship while impoverished seniors are also employed. In addition, women casino workers routinely subjected to sexual abuse on the job by casino management personnel have no rights of redress under any laws--- state, federal, or tribal.

These casino operations make money hand over fist twenty four hours a day, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year.

Casino workers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa are being fired left and right as they try to organize into a union to protect their rights.

Workers’ rights are human rights.

That Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, the media, church leaders, casino patrons, and the general public would continue to ignore the plight and rights of casino workers requires an in-depth discussion on ethics and morality of not only income distribution, but, workers’ rights in the casino industry--- including the media and public officials. Obviously, if the general public is not made aware of the truthful facts that these casino workers will have no rights and the overall Draconian conditions of their employment, the general public has no chance to try to influence the Governor and State Legislators; this is a question of ethics & morality; it is also a question of democracy.

Many casino workers have been forced to join the National Guard in order to supplement their incomes and are presently deployed in these immoral, illegal, unjust imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Casino workers are victims of health insurance scams and schemes like AFLACK promoted by casino managements who profit from each individual policy sold to casino workers… AFLACK is hawked by Wayne Newton, along with his quacking white duck on behalf of shysters and racketeers.

Casino workers are dragged into everything from loan sharking and drug dealing to prostitution and illegal gambling operations by casino management personnel who engage in these ventures as a “sideline.”

You have the opportunity to bring this issue involving the rights of casino workers before Michigan Legislators… I urge you to contact your state legislators without delay.

You have the opportunity to open up a direct dialogue on these issues of ethics and morality of income distribution which includes casino workers’ wages/benefits in the casino industry with reporters covering this casino story… Kalamazoo Gazette reporter Michelle Miron can be contacted at: 269-388-2733; Grand Rapids Press reporter Chris Knape can be contacted at: 616-458-8853. For too long the media has not been held accountable by the people… these issues involving the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan together with the rights of working people are but the very tip of the unethical and immoral conduct of the media and “public” officials… we need only look at the way the media and public officials have approached the entire health care mess as they evade any discussion of single-payer, universal health care and socialized health care in our country; not to mention the lies-- unchallenged by the media-- used by Bush to drag our country into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the Democrats have acquiesced.

Something to keep in mind: A good union contract is better than any government anti-poverty program and a whole lot cheaper for tax-payers, too; however, it is just about impossible for casino workers to organize unless casino workers are protected by the same state and federal labor laws and legislation protecting all other workers; the organization of industrial unions in our country bears this out.

The Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council has placed before casino managements and operators a very basic contract proposal that would only cost the industry four rolls of quarters, per hour, per employee… Anyone who has ever set foot in any casino understands that this is a very modest and legitimate proposal. Any school child understands poverty cannot be eliminated while workers are paid poverty wages. “The market” will not resolve this problem.

I would ask you to keep these issues in mind as you discuss ethics and the morality of income distribution. Please don’t allow another casino to go into operation until the workers who will be employed in this casino are assured that they will be protected by the same rights all other workers are protected under. If Governor Granholm can negotiate a monetary “take” for the state, the Governor and Michigan State Legislators can negotiate these rights for workers into the agreement, also.

The 1,800 workers who will be employed in the Gun Lake tribe casino operation in Allegan County are your fellow human beings who are entitled to the same rights all other workers have; they may be your relatives, friends, neighbors, or displaced auto workers. Don’t let anyone from the media, or any politician or supporter of this casino operation tell you that this issue involving the rights of working people who will be employed in this casino will be “taken care of later.” In fact, more than 250,000 casino workers and those employed in related hospitality industries have not been taken care of “later.” This ethical and moral question requires resolution before this casino deal is approved by the Michigan legislature.

* A bogus issue that frequently surfaces: “sovereignty” of Indian Nations. “Sovereignty” is not a license to deny working people their basic human rights. No nation on earth is entitled to deny working people their rights. The Governor, State Legislators, Tribal governments, and industry must be held accountable when it comes to the rights of casino workers. Anything that obscures the issue of the rights of casino workers is a diversion from ethical and moral standards involving media, public officials, and casino investors, owners & operators as well as being a diversion from the moral question of income distribution. The fact that Governor Granholm negotiated with, and Michigan legislators must approve this casino deal, is proof that “sovereignty” does not exclude the issue of protection of casino workers’ rights--- workers, who, like all other workers, produce the wealth of their industry. Labor produces all wealth; yet, labor receives only a pittance of the wealth it creates.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Health care is a human right

Single-payer, universal health care is the only solution, short of socialized health care, to the present health care mess we are confronted with.

I don't know why it is so hard for the United States Congress and Minnesota legislators to understand this... the rest of the world understands... but, then again, the rest of the world understands that this dirty war in Iraq is wrong, too.

In the past week first we saw the "progressive think tank" headed up by Robert Borasage and Roger Hickey abandon single-payer, universal health care. A few days ago the national leadership of the AFL-CIO refused to support single-payer, universal health care in spite of the mounting movement for single-payer from the rank and file members who pay the dues. Now we have Minnesota's DFL legislators advocating for what would be the most regressive and reactionary health care "plan" in the industrial world.

Here are the facts:

The overwhelming majority of people here in Minnesota and across the nation are for single-payer, universal health care; ask anyone and chances are they will tell you they want what Canadians have been very satisfied with for many years.

Here where I live up in northern Minnesota, the Roseau County Convention of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party voted unanimously for a resolution supporting "no-fee, comprehensive, all-inclusive, single-payer, universal health care" that would be, "publicly funded and publicly administered."

For over four years I fought to get single-payer, universal health care up for debate on the floor of the State Convention of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party. Finally, at this last convention it got to the floor for a vote... the DFL delegates voted by an overwhelming majority to support single-payer, universal health care... 72% of the delegates voted for it. No other health care proposal has ever garnered such overwhelming support from delegates.

Now, along come a couple DFL legislators bought and paid for by the HMO's, the insurance industry, the American Medical Association and they come up with this sham "health care reform" that members of the Minnesota DFL have never even discussed.

Becky Lourey was the first DFL'er considered to be "progressive" who backed away from single-payer. She derives her income from those who profit from health care so this was not surprising; as does DFL'er State Rep. Thomas Huntley. DFL'er Senator Linda Berglin has been playing us all for fools on this issue for a long time. None of these people ever got up before the state convention with the proposal they now want to shove down our throats to protect their friends who make big profits from health care. That Republicans concoct these schemes is not strange in the least.

The same thing goes for the top echelons of the leadership in the AFL-CIO, and Change To Win... many of these people make big bucks from sitting on all kinds of boards over-seeing health and pension funds that are controlled by the insurance industry and Wall Street coupon clippers... and many of these union pension funds are invested in insurance companies.

Working people know what we need and want... we want single-payer, universal health care; many of us would rather we were discussing socialized health care but we were willing to make the compromise and accept single-payer, universal health care.

This present scheme being proposed is only going to make a really bad situation even worse for most people as the doctors, hospitals, HMO's, pharmaceutical, and insurance companies continue to stuff their pockets as they laugh all the way to the bank on their way to the country club and their castles on the North Shore.

They just don't get it; health care is a human right, not another feeding trough to get rich from.

I nominate Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party State Representatives Thomas Huntley and Bernie Lieder for the "Golden Pig" award... does anyone want to second the nomination?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A North American Labor Assembly on Climate Crisis: Building a Global Movement for Clean Energy

Union leaders and activists from around the world will be convening a conference--- A North American Labor Assembly on Climate Crisis: Building a Global Movement for Clean Energy

Click on the title [with the white arrow set in a small orange box] to check it out.

I hope our proposal to save the St. Paul Ford Assembly Plant will be discussed at this conference.

Appeal To Minnesotans For Public Ownership Of The Ford Plant


Alan Maki Of Save Our Bog


Christine Frank Of The Climate Crisis Coalition Of The Twin Cities

Christine Frank (on right) with Minnesota State Legislator Bill Hilty and wife Laurie

[Aerial view of St. Paul, Minnesota Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant]


As we are all too painfully aware, Ford’s Twin Cities Assembly Plant is slated to close in 2008. The economic and environmental consequences affect everyone in the state, and for that reason, a concerted effort should be made to keep it open. Yet, city, county and state officials are throwing up their hands and helplessly accepting the situation as a fait accompli. It was the promise of cheap hydroelectric power that prompted Henry Ford to build an automotive assembly plant in St. Paul. The initial dam on the Mississippi River was completed in 1917 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the plant went up in 1924 and a major upgrade was finished on the dam in 1929 for the benefit of the automaker. The St. Paul facility is the oldest Ford plant in operation, and to this day, is still run by renewable hydropower, which is to the benefit of the surrounding community and the natural environment. The onsite availability of high-quality sandstone, making it possible to produce windshield and lamp glass, was another feature that attracted Ford to the area.

The plant first made Model As & Ts. Later, with the advent of World War II, the U.S. witnessed one of the greatest crash militarization programs ever undertaken, and Ford wasted no time in retooling for military production. The plant in St. Paul made T17 armored cars used by the British army and U.S. military police and M8 howitzers, which were light tanks. Local autoworkers also did precision machining on pistons, cam supports and pump gears for Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines. This enabled war profiteer Henry Ford to make money hand over fist. Being blatantly anti-Semitic and pro-fascist, he produced equipment for both the U.S. Army and the German Wehrmacht in his American & European facilities. The main lesson here is that in its 82 years of operation, the local Ford plant has been retooled many times, producing over 20 different model vehicles for peace- and wartime purposes. There is no reason why this cannot be done again for the good of the community.


In the face of increased competition from foreign automakers and in the interests of the bottom line, Ford’s president and board of directors have made a conscious decision to divest capital in areas they deem unprofitable and reinvest elsewhere. This is at the cost of 30,000 jobs nationwide. The St. Paul factory is one of the strongest components of what remains of Minnesota’s industrial base.

Its 1,885 hourly & salaried employees, who have given many years of loyal service, along with their families need the jobs, benefits and pensions that have been promised to them. The wages they earn are a vital part of the economy. If the plant closes and they do not have the opportunity to transfer to another Ford facility, they will lose everything. Plus, future generations will never have the chance to work at these good-paying, productive jobs because they will be gone forever. Turning the land over to the highest bidder for development is not the answer either because that will only make a wealthy few richer in the long run. These jobs must be saved to prevent the members of UAW 879 from being thrown onto the scrap heap.


With global warming and climate change threatening Earth with ecological disaster, we must take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in every aspect of our lives. This includes transport. We can no longer afford to get from Point A to B in private automobiles. The vast quantities of materials used and waste stream generated are taxing the planet’s finite resources beyond sustainable limits. With only ten years left to put things right, producing hybrids at this point is not enough. In fact, it is a case of too little, too late. If the automakers had begun manufacturing them in the early ‘70s when carbon dioxide concentrations really spiked, then we might have something to show for it now, but that is not the case.

The use of E85s powered by ethanol are problematic as well. Ethanol is a hydrocarbon whose production wastes grains needed for food and creates air pollutants and whose burning adds to CO2 concentrations. Therefore, we must convert immediately to clean mass transit systems powered by renewable energy. Given its past history, St. Paul’s Ford Plant could easily be retooled for the production of electric train engines and carriages that are driven by green wind & solar power. Just imagine convenient and efficient rail systems criss-crossing the entire country carrying passengers and freight and what an aid that would be to Earth’s ecosystems.



The auto-makers and other Carbon Barons are largely to blame for the dilemma we are in. It was they who destroyed the electric street car systems in the early 20th century in order to build more roads, sell more automobiles and burn more fossil fuels. This proves that they do not run their operations with the welfare of the planet or the rest of us in mind. If Ford’s management and stockholders are unwilling to keep the plant open for either clean or dirty transport, then let’s put it under public ownership. It is not unheard of. The Manitoba provincial government took over the Ford tractor factory in Winnipeg in order to prevent its closing. Let’s go them one better by using a green-powered plant to produce environmentally-friendly mass transit for the health of the planet and us human beings. Being some of the most progressive and ecologically-minded union members in the state, the leaders and ranks of UAW 879 would no doubt be proud to work in such a plant and support this campaign.


We should keep in mind that Ford Motor Company has made billions from war profiteering, government bailouts and subsidies and tax breaks. Being granted its own hydroelectric power is a perfect example of the free ride Ford has gotten. That dam, for all practical purposes, belongs to the community and generates 5 mWh of excess electricity that is sold to Xcel for $4 million a year so, in a sense, the operation already helps pay for itself. In order to make money available to purchase the factory, we can end state-funded corporate boondoggles and development schemes that benefit only the rich, demand that less money be spent for war and more for jobs & the environment, tax corporate polluters and halt waste on every level by reducing, reusing and recycling at the point of production.

In fact, there are many creative ways the project could be funded that are financially sound and ecological—including increasing the taconite tax since keeping the St. Paul Ford plant operating will save mining jobs on the Iron Range too.

It is merely a matter of redirecting our priorities and asserting our societal will. So let’s join together to achieve a worthy goal--retool the Ford plant to produce green mass transit and not only save Minnesota jobs but ultimately Earth!





A joint venture with the Chinese government should be explored in order to keep the plant open. Joint ventures like this one in Eveleth, Minnesota with the Chinese have been very successful in keeping mine open and saving jobs:


Union members discuss how to save the planet

Author: Barbara Kucera

People's Weekly World Newspaper, 02/01/07

ST. PAUL, Minnesota. (PAI) — Saying the future of the planet is at stake, union members and their allies gathered at a Labor and Sustainability Conference here Jan. 19-20 to discuss strategies to address the climate crisis and promote healthy development.

Organizers of the conference included members of United Auto Workers Local 879, who will soon lose their jobs when Ford Motor Co. shuts down its Ranger truck plant in St. Paul. The plant is run on hydroelectric power from the Mississippi River. It’s one of the few green manufacturing facilities in the nation.

Conference events were held in the training center adjacent to the plant and at the Local 879 hall across the street.

The Minnesota conference is just the latest development in what has become a stronger alliance between organized labor and environmental groups in the last decade, where unions push job creation in environmentally friendly ways.

Led by the Steelworkers, unions are pushing a 10-year, $300 billion plan to invest in new U.S. plants to create environmentally friendly products, such as hybrid cars and solar panels. The Apollo Alliance would also bring new high-paying factory jobs to areas of the U.S. hard hit by the loss of 3 million manufacturing jobs — half of them unionized — since 1999. Minnesota workshop topics included proposals for future green manufacturing at the Ford plant, the campaign for zero greenhouse gas emissions, conversion to wind power, effects of climate change on the region and confronting corporate globalization.

The theme of the conference was “a just transition from our present fossil-fuel economy to one that is based on clean, renewable energy,” said Local 879 Health and Safety Director Lynn Hinkle. “This rests on the notion that we can have both a healthy environment and good-paying union jobs in a green economy.”

Author Jack Rasmus, a former union organizer who has done extensive research on global warming, outlined the scope of the crisis in his keynote address. The frozen Arctic Ocean could be completely melted by 2040, and scientists say Greenland is melting twice as fast as previously predicted, Rasmus said. Massive ice melts will cause major climate changes and create a cycle of heavy rainfall in some areas and drought in others.

As sea levels rise, it’s estimated 300 million people will become refugees as coastal cities are submerged around the world. Many species of animals and plants also are threatened by the climate changes.

In addition to the human and environmental cost, global warming would have huge economic cost — as much as 20 percent of the world’s total economic production, or nearly $10 trillion, Rasmus said. That’s more than the economic cost of World Wars I and II and the Great Depression combined, he explained.

While the projections are bleak, the good news is that many people are waking up and starting to act, he added. “The reality is so overwhelming now that the tide has turned” and “there’s a new political phase opening up” in Congress and at state and local levels, Rasmus said.

Unfortunately, proposals in the past GOP-run Congress focused almost entirely on creating incentives for businesses to cut emissions, such as the “cap and trade” approach that lets companies sell environmental “credits” if their production falls below carbon dioxide emission limits, he added. The Bush administration’s Environmental Protection Agency also favors “cap and trade” plans. That practice, now used in Europe, has done little to reduce emissions because the limits are not stringent enough, Rasmus said.

Barbara Kucera writes for Workday Minnesota.


Ford workers call for ‘green’ jobs

Author: Barbara Kucera

People's Weekly World Newspaper, 03/01/07

ST. PAUL, Minnesota. (PAI) — Minnesota’s United Auto Workers are taking their fight to save jobs at the St. Paul Ford plant to the state Capitol, where proposed legislation would require the company to maintain the facility so it could be used for other manufacturing.

State Sen. Richard Cohen (D), who represents the Highland Park neighborhood where the plant is located, introduced legislation in early February to help deal with the looming closure. He said state Rep. Carlos Mariani (D-St. Paul) is introducing a companion bill in the state House.

The legislation requires Ford Motor Co. to “maintain the plant and related facilities in a saleable condition for at least five years” after operations end. Ford has said it will cease production of Ranger pickup trucks in 2008. Already, one shift has been shut down and nearly half of the approximately 2,000 employees have been laid off.

The looming end of the St. Paul plant is part of Ford’s multibillion-dollar downsizing, which includes other closings nationwide and the decision by at least 30,000 UAW members to take buyouts or early retirement packages.

Plant runs on hydroelectric

But the legislative response is not typical. In other such cases, both in the auto industry and other industries, local officials have tried to keep plants open while manufacturing the same products. That wouldn’t necessarily be the case with the St. Paul Ford plant.

Ford has spurned attempts by UAW Local 879 and local officials to discuss alternative uses of the plant. The facility is unique because it draws its power totally from a hydroelectric plant on the nearby Mississippi River.

‘Shabby treatment’ of workers

Cohen said his legislation was born out of a sense of frustration.
“The UAW members who work at this plant have been treated quite shabbily by the company,” he said. “Whatever respect I’ve had for this company has been lost as this process unfolds.”

Cohen’s bill is similar to one adopted in 2001 when LTV mining closed its Iron Range mining operation in far northern Minnesota.

Keeping the Ford plant “in saleable condition” would require a skeleton crew of workers to operate the hydroelectric plant and a boiler and maintain the exterior of the facility, said Bob Killeen, Local 879 financial secretary. News reports say Ford is in talks to sell the hydroelectric plant. Cohen said he expects legislative action on his proposal within two months, even though hearings have not been set yet.

Local 879 Health and Safety Director Lynn Hinkle has spearheaded the union’s attempt to find other manufacturers that could take over the Ford plant.

Hinkle said the process of forcing Ford to sell the plant to a manufacturer — as opposed to tearing it down and selling the land to developers — will be difficult. But “there are incredible opportunities,” he added. Use of the plant to produce, for example, wind turbines would provide a huge spur to “green” manufacturing throughout the state, he added.

Ecologically friendly manufacturing

Conversion of older closed factories to newer ecologically friendly manufacturing is one plank in the Apollo Alliance energy independence program pushed by the Steelworkers. For example, a historic former steel plant near Pittsburgh now makes turbines for a Spanish-owned windmill firm — and its workers are USW members.

Noted Killeen, “We are committed to maintaining good manufacturing jobs in the city of St. Paul.”

Barb Kucera writes for Workday Minnesota.


Union Members & Environmental Activist Discuss Climate Crisis

by David Jones / February 2007

ST. PAUL, Minn.—A two-day conference here hosted by United Auto Workers Local 879 brought some 200 union members and environmental activists together for a pioneering discussion on the mounting global climate crisis from a working-class perspective.

The Jan. 19-20 Labor and Sustainability Conference began with a keynote session that filled Local 879’s meeting hall, located across from Ford Motor Co.’s Twin Cities Assembly Plant, where the local’s nearly 2000 members work. The meeting was chaired by Phyllis Walker, president of AFSCME Local 3800. Walker is a native of New Orleans, where her mother and sister still live, and has spoken publicly on the catastrophic results of Hurricane Katrina.

Keynote speakers Jack Rasmus, a former union organizer who has done extensive research on global warming, and Bill Onasch, a veteran union leader in both the Minneapolis/St. Paul and Kansas City areas, addressed the heating up of the planet, driven by increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Charles Griffith and Claudette Juska from the Auto Project of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., also spoke.

The amount of CO2 has doubled in the last 200 years, with most of the growth occurring in recent decades, Rasmus said.

The frozen Artic Ocean could melt completely by 2040, and scientists say Greenland is melting twice as fast as previously predicted. Massive ice melts will cause major climate changes and create a cycle of heavy rainfall in some areas, drought in others.

Saturday’s 10 workshops covered a wide range of topics, including sustainable agriculture, wind power, sustainability in union contracts, the campaign for zero greenhouse gas emissions, and technology conversion for “Green Operation.”

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 President Michelle Sommers spoke on “The Need to Expand Clean Mass Transit,” suggesting conversion of the soon-to-be closed Ford plant to the production of hybrid-fuel buses.

Other workshop speakers with union affiliations included Phil Qualy, director of the United Transportation Union’s Minnesota Legislative Board, Dennis Levendowski from Millwrights Local 548—who reported on the increasing employment opportunities for of building trades workers in construction of wind power generators—Jon Malek, vice-president of United Steel Workers Local 1938 on the Minnesota Iron Range, and Bernie Hesse, Special Projects Organizer for UFCW 789.

Christine Frank, IATSE Local 12, a co-convenor of the conference and writer on environmental issues, spoke on the mounting global climate crisis.

Lynn Hinkle, Health and Safety Director for UAW 879, and a conference co-convenor, welcomed conference participants to the union’s meeting hall and training center, where workshop sessions were held.

The Twin Cities Assembly Plant, which Ford has announced will close permanently in 2008, is justly celebrated for its total reliance on energy from its hydro-electric dam located adjacent to the factory on the Mississippi River. The dam and power station were essentially a gift from the state when Henry Ford began assembly operations at the newly constructed site in 1923.

Ford’s recent decision to close 15 plants, including this state-of-the-art production facility, one of only a few in the industrial world that operate with their own hydro-electric station, has prompted proposals for saving the plant for conversion to green production of environmentally friendly products such as wind-generating turbines and hybrid vehicles.

Christine Frank and environmental activist Alan Maki have authored a widely-circulated proposal for public ownership and operation of the plant in green production. A workshop entitled “Saving the Ford Plant Through Green Manufacturing,” led by Hinkle, addressed the campaign for alternatives.

Increasing awareness of and activity around the global-warming crisis combined with Ford’s abrupt decision to shut the plant and eliminate some 2000 jobs led to the convergence of environmental and union concerns that prompted the conference. In what is apparently one of the first, if not the only, union-initiated convocations to seek to address these matters jointly with a broad range of environmental activists, the conference organizers sought the widest possible participation of the rank and file of both movements.

“Workers have a fundamental human right,” the organizers said, “to remain in their historic communities with a guarantee of no loss of good-paying, union-protected employment. In order to avoid having solutions imposed by others with no sense of obligation to the communities that they impact, labor must develop its own program and solutions than can equitably balance justice for workers with the need to preserve our natural heritage.”

The conference was endorsed by Minnesota State Federation of Labor, the Minneapolis and St Paul central labor councils, and other labor and environmental groups. Buoyed by the positive response to the conference, a continuations committee is in formation to pursue further education and action. More information is available at the conference website: www.laborandsustainability.org/


Labor & Environmental Movements Are Natural Allies

by Bill Onasch / February 2007

The following is the text of prepared remarks to the Labor and Sustainability Conference, held in St Paul, Jan. 19-20. Due to time constraints, the actual oral presentation was somewhat shorter.

Bill Onasch is a retired bus driver, a former vice president of ATU Local 1287 in Kansas City. He represents Midwest Chapters on the Labor Party Interim National Council.

One aspect of the environmental crisis that probably does not get sufficient attention is what became known as urban sprawl.

My hometown of Kansas City is the perfect poster child for this blight. The official metropolitan area encompasses seven counties in two states. The population is a little under two million. We have the most freeway lane miles per capita of any major city in the world.

But business development promoters have expanded this metro definition even further to take in no less than 17 counties, extending as far west as Topeka, Kan., and as far north as St Joseph, Mo. This area is about 150 miles east to west and 100 miles north to south, about the size of Belgium.

While we are among the most extreme examples, we are hardly unique. Most major cities—including the Twin Cities—have gone through a similar process. While the growth of this sprawl has been largely unregulated, it is not unplanned. It is the consequence of conscious decisions made after World War II by those who rule America.

The country was just emerging from more than 15 years of uninterrupted depression or war. There was already a big housing shortage and tremendous pent-up consumer demand when the baby boomers started arriving on the scene in big numbers.

Instead of renovating the somewhat shabby urban cores, as was done in Europe at the time, developers decided to take advantage of relatively cheap land prices to build brand new suburbs. Government-guaranteed VA and FHA loans lured much of the white working class out of the bustling urban cores into brand new single-family houses, where the birds sing and the flowers bloom.

Now what’s wrong with that? It turns out plenty was wrong. That cheap land surrounding the cities used to be where our milk and eggs came from every day, along with much of our fresh fruit and vegetables in season.

Locally produced food has become a boutique industry today. Most items in our grocery stores were transported hundreds, even thousands of miles.

In addition to removing acreage from productive farming, in many cases wetlands were destroyed, leading to a host of new, sometimes deadly problems, such as those described by the Chair [Phyllis Walker, president of AFSCME Local 3800] in the Katrina storm surge in New Orleans.

In many cities, Kansas City included, part of the sales pitch for the new developments was racially motivated. Bank red-lining, and sometimes covenants attached to home deeds, insured that most of the new suburbs were white. Conversely, what remained of the urban core was largely Black.

Most inner cities faced a declining tax base, leading to deterioration of basic services. The Kansas City School District has lost its accreditation.

The fall-out from sprawl has had enormous social and economic, as well as environmental, consequences. Abandoning the established urban infrastructure meant a whole new one had to be created, spanning vast areas with new water, sewer, electrical, telephone, and gas lines.

While the old cities were usually well served by mass transit, a vast new road network had to be built—at taxpayer expense—to access the new housing. No transit service to speak of was expanded to these areas.

It was that factor, not some “American love affair with the car,” that made us car-dependent. Once you were out in the new suburbs, if you didn’t have a car you were marooned.

Most people started spending a good chunk of their lives commuting to work in their cars. Lacking the corner stores that were so abundant in the cities, they became accustomed to driving to the nearest filling station or strip mall just to buy a quart of milk.

There is no group of workers more in touch with the problems of urban sprawl than transit workers. We see all sides of it through the passengers we carry, to the traffic we drive in, to the fight for public funding.

Kansas City has a proud transit heritage. We had the first electric-powered streetcar. We once had an extensive network of streetcar lines, which included many miles of exclusive right of ways. In the 1930s this was supplemented with electric trolley-bus lines.

At its peak, during World War II, the system carried nearly 400,000 passengers a day in a city that at the time had a population of only 400,000. Such a system would cost many billions to replicate today.

Then KC not only got hit by the general trend of postwar sprawl. We were also one of a number of cities targeted by General Motors, who covertly acquired transit systems in order to destroy them. The streetcar and trolley-bus lines were eliminated. They paved over tracks and sold the overhead wires for scrap.

They did this on an even grander scale in Los Angeles. Different forces brought a similar outcome to the Twin Cities and, ultimately, nearly every major city.

In 1969 Congress passed the Urban Mass Transit Act. With the help of federal funding, the failed private transit companies were reorganized into quasi-public bodies. While this saved mass transit from extinction, it recast its role. Instead of a vital, commonly used public service in need of expansion, it was designed to primarily provide bare-bones transportation to those unfortunates without access to a car.

Diverting transportation funds from highways to transit was always like pulling teeth. What funding that was available was usually for big-ticket capital projects—such as building subways or light-rail systems where there was money to be made by construction contractors—while operating funds needed to provide day-to-day service shrank.

In 1992, in response to lost operating-fund assistance, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority initiated a downsizing strategy that included, for the first time in many years, lay-offs of bus drivers. Some of us approached our local union president and sold him on the idea that we should organize a public fight against the cuts in service.

A Community Outreach Committee was launched that enlisted support from community, student, and environmental groups. Our committee submitted a petition with 8000 signatures protesting the cuts to the Kansas City, Mo., city council, who passed a resolution of support.

In Kansas City, Kan., we bused angry transit users to city council meetings whenever there was any talk of further cuts, and their sometimes rowdy interventions kept the status quo in place for several years. We held rallies and organized community meetings. We published a position paper putting transit in the sprawl crisis context.

We did win some short-term reprieves of service, and put transit on the agenda for discussion. But we didn’t have the political clout to do much more.

Then we heard about an initiative by a most remarkable union leader, the late Tony Mazzocchi of the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union. He had convinced his union to sponsor Labor Party Advocates. We thought a Labor Party sounded like a good idea in general, and we were particularly attracted to the environmental stance LPA was staking out.

ATU Local 1287 became an early endorser of LPA, and activists in our Community Outreach Committee took the initiative in setting up a Kansas City LPA chapter, as well as a Labor Party Transit Club in our local union.

Mazzocchi was generally credited with being the principal leader of the successful drive to get OSHA passed in 1970. He worked with Karen Silkwood, whose life and death as a Kerr-McGee nuclear fuel plant worker was made famous by Meryl Streep’s film portrayal.

Tony also had a long history of collaboration with the broader environmental movement, working closely with figures such as Ralph Nader and Barry Commoner.

Tony had confidence in the working class. He believed that, told the truth and given reasonable options, we generally do the right thing. That’s what encouraged him to take environmental issues to the membership of a union whose bosses were among the top polluters.

It was within the old OCAW, now part of the Steelworkers, that the concept of Just Transition, incorporated from the beginning in the Labor Party program, was initially formulated. Just Transition rejects the counterposition of jobs versus the environment. We want, and believe we can have, good jobs while repairing and reversing the environmental destruction caused by corporate polluters.

Certainly some union jobs—including UAW jobs—would face elimination as we reorganize economic activity to tackle the enormous environmental crisis—above all global warming. The Labor Party approach to Just Transition is to provide retraining to all such displaced workers and to assist them with incomes and benefits to maintain middle-class living standards until they are placed in new suitable work. Nobody will be left behind.

This program would be largely paid for by a tax on corporate polluters—similar to the Super Fund tax used to clean up environmental messes created by irresponsible industries.

Some will say this Just Transition is socialistic pie-in-the-sky that can never be realized. We’d better rally around our employers to save our jobs. Well, let’s look at just one example from history concerning UAW members.

In 1942 all auto production in the USA came to an abrupt and total halt, not to be resumed for nearly four years. Did this lead to disaster for UAW members? Quite the contrary. The numbers in the plants swelled considerably, and there was more overtime available than even the greediest could work.

Those plants were put under government control, and virtually all capital and operating expenses were guaranteed by the federal government. It was a triumph of industrial mobilization.

Of course, in this example, the product was planes, tanks, and jeeps for the war effort. We don’t need such things today. But can’t such plants, along with their workers, be converted to serve a new green economy?

As a matter of fact, one proposal for using the plant across the street being abandoned by Ford is to build clean mass transit vehicles—and we need a lot of those if we are serious about global warming.

The labor movement needs to recognize that environmentalists are not our enemy. Our adversaries are the employers who care nothing about either the environment or our jobs.

The union movement and the environmental movement are in fact a natural fit as allies.

We need to unite to educate, agitate, and organize in our workplaces, campuses, and communities. This conference is a good step in that direction.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Are America's capitalist titans really going green?

Are America's capitalist titans really going green? You may want to read the article that follows what I have written here first.

Below is the article I am responding to.

I do not have any faith in corporations and the capitalist system solving our energy problems or solving the problems associated with global warming as this article below alludes to.

In fact, the coal plants are not needed because the energy is needed elsewhere... Russia, Eastern Europe, China, and India as production (and jobs) are moved to areas of cheap labor and cheap natural resources. Right now Russia is being raped of its natural resources by its capitalist "saviors;" forests being clear-cut at an unprecedented rate, all kinds of minerals extracted without concern for people or the environment, formerly state-owned enterprises and collectives now have no labor laws that have to be obeyed and often workers aren't even paid anything as one company abandons the privatized companies and new owners refuse to pay the wages owed; huge refineries and mills are in full production with everything being brought over here or shipped to China and India and the end product shipped over here... when you are stealing all of this from everyone else in the world using their energy resources to boot you don't have to build new power plants here.

When we buy the new "compact fluorescent light bulbs"(CFBs) from Wal-mart that are manufactured in China we will be cutting out the need for a lot of energy... as we save in kilowatts we use, we will be paying more as these companies raise their rates to maintain, and increase, profits.

Why would anyone want to build more power generating capacity here when you can sucker people into throwing away perfectly good light bulbs and buy new ones that conserve on power and you can charge people more for conserving? I'd like to know how much it costs for General Electric to manufacture these new CFB's in China, and how much profit is in these bulbs sold in the millions by Wal-mart. All these companies from General Electric to Wal-mart to the power generating industries profit at our expense and this is the way capitalists become "green;" the only green they care about is the green of money. Everything has become a racket... first these "titans of capitalism" rape Mother Nature through the exploitation of labor, then they turn around and screw working people, again, using these schemes that are then portrayed as "green."

This entire capitalist rat race where consumerism is pushed down our throats without our input has to end. Only a cooperative socialist system will be able to really put an end to this wasteful consumerism and consumption that ends up in landfills we can't control.

If we organized society based upon what human beings really require for meaningful lives rather than what the Madison Avenue advertising industry is hired by corporations to make us think we need, we could cut the production of energy very significantly and once every one's basic needs have been met, then, as a society we can plan and decide what other things are really needed considering the consequences to Mother Nature, the availability of resources and labor, etc.

I don't recall people ever making a democratic decision leaving these "tiatans of capitalism" in charge of doing our thinking and planning our future for us... talk about voting and democracy and you have a couple financial companies taking over control of a massive energy producing empire like this article talks about; and, having accumulated this kind of obscene wealth...

I never even heard of these corporations, and here they are playing "Let's Make A Deal;" does anyone ever bother to stop and ask the question: How is it they have accumulated such tremendous wealth? This money didn't grow on trees... gees, there may not even be that many trees left in this country worth this much.

At some point we need to ask what the hell is going on here... not praise these damn corporations for turning "green." I would be willing to guess that if they accumulated this kind of wealth in the energy producing industries that they are largely responsible for much of the pollution and contamination of our streams, rivers, lakes, land, and the air we need to breath... and guess who is getting stuck with the bills to clean up the messes they created? The same Minnesota legislators who voted to the tune of $800,000,000.00 for the first phase of getting rid of mercury contamination largely created by the power generating industries can't come up with funding to keep the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant operating as a non-polluting, publicly owned manufacturing venture to build clean mass transit, or wind or solar devices... yet the companies responsible for this pollution are making this deal and we are all supposed to be happy and smile.

I would be willing to bet that these two financial giants will have it written in the contract that they will bear no responsibility to pay for any environmental clean-ups... you can bet that any deal like this taking place in Texas will have George Bush making sure of that.

The primary goal of industrial production should be to see to it that every human being has adequate food, housing, health care, education, clothes, and recreational opportunities. .. that society has museums and libraries accessible for all. The wealthy go to the symphony; our kids go deaf listening to MP3s and IPODs. The rich can buy their books;libraries are closing, cutting back on hours of operation, and charging outrageous user fees.

No one sees anything wrong with any of this as this kind of scandalous deal involving such tremendous wealth goes down between these "titans of capitalism?"

Has anyone bothered to ask how it is that one financial empire is able to cut back on energy produced with coal, but the existing empire can not?

This fallacy of capitalist "markets" being required to propel society forward; or, that these "markets" will solve our problems like global warming is all a bunch of crap; these capitalists are only going to do what is profitable for them, and this has to come to an end... it is this endless and relentless drive for profits on the part of these capitalist corporations and finance capitalists that got us into the present mess we are in.

While these "titans of capitalism" were creating this mess that has brought us global warming and ruined so many lives of working people, these "titans of capitalism" were making big money... they had to have been or else they wouldn't be able to engage in this kind of deal. Now these same "titans of capitalism" are going to turn another quick profit, again, at the expense of working people who will lose their jobs, their homes, and their health care because we all know that when any big deal of this nature goes down a lot of working people will suffer.

America's "titans of capitalism" are not turning green... they have always been green--- money green; the color of capitalism will always be green... but this is not the kind of green most of humanity has in mind.

Think about this:

Here you have this kind of wealth in one single capitalist deal on the one hand; on the other hand we have Minnesota legislators saying they can't afford to take over the Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and place it under public ownership; or, come up with the funds for a world-class, comprehensive, no-fee, single-payer, universal health care system.

Something is drastically wrong with this picture.


This is the article:

When Being Green Puts You in the Black

By Daniel C. Esty
Op-ed / The Washington Post / Sunday, March 4, 2007; B01

Daniel C. Esty is the Hillhouse Professor at Yale University and the co-author, with Andrew Winston, of "Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage" (Yale University Press).

Are America's capitalist titans really going green?

This week's announcement that two of the country's largest private equity firms, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Texas Pacific Group, will purchase the Dallas-based utility TXU made headlines, and not just because the $45 billion deal represents the largest private equity transaction in history. The even bigger news was the environmental dimension of the takeover proposal. It calls for scaling back construction of new coal-fired power plants, ramping up commitments to wind and solar power, supporting mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions and promoting energy efficiency.

One can overdo the hyperbole here, of course. Henry Kravis -- allegedly the model for the 1980s bestseller "Barbarians at the Gate" -- isn't just a Green Knight riding into the Lone Star State to save it from a polluted future. He's a smart businessman who wants to make money. And that is just the point.

This deal shows that we are in the midst of a revolution. Environmental progress no longer depends on hundreds of bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency mandating what piece of pollution-control equipment will be on each smokestack. Government must continue to set standards. But the burden of innovation and technology development will shift to the private sector.

Moving from "command and control" regulations to a market approach to environmental protection means that there will be real costs for pollution -- including a price to be paid for greenhouse-gas emissions -- for every business. But these costs sharpen the economic incentives for pollution control research and development, and create big opportunities for companies that come up with solutions for society's environmental problems.

At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, CEOs fell over one another stepping up to the issue of climate change. Companies large and small are redoubling their environmental efforts in the face of Wal-Mart's demands that its suppliers reduce waste and improve energy efficiency. Billions of dollars of venture capital are flowing into alternative energy and pollution control technology. Leading companies -- call them "WaveRiders" -- have begun to fold environmental thinking into their corporate strategies.

They recognize that we face a carbon-constrained future. While the Bush administration remains opposed to the emissions limits of the Kyoto Protocol, the European Union has imposed greenhouse-gas- reduction obligations on its industries and set up a carbon market to facilitate cost-effective implementation of these requirements. Dozens of American states have likewise taken action in response to the threat of climate change. In fact, five Western states, following the lead of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, announced plans last week to set up their own system for trading carbon emissions. And more than 400 U.S. mayors have committed their cities to emissions-reduction targets.

The next U.S. president is almost certain to bring the nation back into climate-change negotiations and commit to a "beyond Kyoto" set of greenhouse gas reductions.

With the prospect that carbon emissions will soon bear a price -- and perhaps an escalating one -- the decision by the new owners of TXU to steer away from a focus on carbon-intensive coal-based power makes good business sense. In fact, leading-edge companies nationwide are factoring in carbon charges and thus higher prices for burning fossil fuels into their business planning models. This new approach has several important implications. By making companies pay for every increment of pollution, society puts an economic premium on vigorous environmental effort, and forces executives to make pollution control and management of natural resources a core part of their strategy.

Companies that fail to grasp this point put themselves at competitive risk. Ford Motor Co. teeters on the edge of bankruptcy because it did not spot the public's emerging desire for more fuel-efficient and less-polluting vehicles. At the same time, Toyota reported record profits last year because it put these issues at the center of its design strategy, which includes hybrid engines, "lightweighting" of its vehicles through the use of carbon fiber and other advanced materials, and "smart systems" that use computer power to improve efficiency and performance.

The environmental imperative on business arises not just from tighter regulation, but also from the reality of higher energy costs, shortages of natural resources and pressure from environmentally oriented stakeholders, such as those who shaped the TXU deal. With energy costs rising, an expanded focus on conservation and efficiency will pay off in many areas. From high-efficiency LED lighting to smart appliances and green buildings, opportunities to link information- age technology to environmental challenges abound.

A growing number of companies are finding their business plans pinched by limits imposed by nature. For example, Coca-Cola's ability to sell soft drinks depends on access to water, something that cannot be taken for granted in markets such as India. Today, many companies are operating in communities that care deeply about the environment. And employees increasingly want to work for companies that have good environmental records in line with their values. Top corporate leaders recognize that environmental issues represent more than a set of regulations to follow or costs to bear. There are enormous profit opportunities for companies that respond to climate change, water shortages, air pollution and other problems. Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric Co., for example, is selling off his plastics business to focus on high-growth, high-margin environmental goods and services, such as more efficient jet engines, wind power, solar energy and water

This new approach to environmental progress has several important implications. By making companies pay for every increment of pollution, society puts a premium on vigorous environmental effort and forces executives to make pollution control and natural resource management a core part of their strategy. So KKR and TPG have most certainly have not gone soft. The masters of the universe have not given in to greenmail in a fit of political correctness. To the contrary, they are super-sophisticated business people who have learned that success in the marketplace now depends on getting corporate environmental strategy right.


Daniel C. Esty is the Hillhouse Professor at Yale University and the co-author, with Andrew Winston, of "Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage" (Yale University Press).

Friday, March 2, 2007

International Women's Day - March 8

Coming up to International Women's Day on March 8 there will be many articles written like the one below from the International Trade Union Confederation(ITUC).

Unfortunately, many, like the ITUC, continue to knowingly ignore the fact that hundreds of thousands of women, the majority of child-bearing age, go to work in smoke-filled casinos without any rights under state or federal labor laws at poverty wages under the most Draconian working conditions freely dictated by the ruthless managements of the so-called "Native American owned" casino industry here in the United States.

The ITUC, like its U.S. affiliates is fully aware of the situation and acknowledges the facts as stated... but, because the Democratic Party which receives millions upon millions of dollars in campaign contributions from these casino managements and their many "front" organizations is a "coalition partner" with the AFL-CIO... this deplorable situation was allowed to take place... worse yet, continue unchallenged. In fact, Brian Melendez, the Chair of the Minnesota DFL has often referred to "our Native American friends in the casino industry;" obviously he does not include Native American women forced to labor and work in such conditions among his "friends" as he has raised so much money from his "casino friends" in the past election.

The "Native American owned" casino industry is a relatively new industry which makes this situation all the worse because at the time that politicians entered into these agreements known as "Compacts" which established this Indian gaming industry there was already a great deal of awareness when it comes to workers' rights being human rights.

In fact, former Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich, when made aware of the fact that thousands of casino workers would have no rights under these agreements sought to rectify this and he was rebuffed by his own Party, the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, and state Attorney General "Skip" Humphrey, the opportunist who saw big money in the form of campaign contributions pushed these compacts through without any mention of labor rights.

Perpich, who came from a strong, left-wing, progressive family of socialists who threw in their lot with the Red Finns on Minnesota's Iron Range, was quick to identify the problem as being very similar to the problem confronting miners on the Iron Range who worked at the mercy of ruthless bosses... unfortunately, disagreements and animosity in the Minnesota DFL, illness followed by a painful death didn't allow Perpich the time to act in fighting to include the rights of workers in these "Compacts."

Anyone with the least little bit of common sense understands the harmful effects of second-hand smoke... even the DFL Senate candidate Ford Bell who was at one time the head of the Heart Association recognized this; however, to date not one single Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan politician of any political party... not even the Greens or even the Communist Party U.S.A. has had the moral or political courage to address this problem for what it is: a human rights issue; a very basic and fundamental human rights issue for working people... with young working class women the victims, and Native American women who work in these casinos under such conditions because they can not get jobs elsewhere the primary victims of these casino managements.

These casino managements shut down the ventilating systems in the winter time in order to save on heating bills.

It is time for Guy Ryder and the newly organized International Trade Union Confederation to take concrete and decisive action by insisting that John Sweeney and the AFL-CIO along with its coalition partner the Democratic Party act to correct this injustice.

On this International Women's Day the ITUC and the AFL-CIO should call upon its members and all coalition partners to boycott these casinos until casino workers are included in protections in the workplace under state and federal labor laws protecting all other workers.

It is shameful that organizations like the Senior Federation of Minnesota along with many union newspapers continue to promote "tours" to these casinos while many unions including Minnesota Education and the building and construction trades unions continue to use casino meeting rooms and convention facilities.

The Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council and the Red Lake Casino, Hotel, and Restaurant Employees' Union Organizing Committee have placed a very basic package of demands before the casino industry, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, and all of these casino managements... make the workplace a smoke-free environment like the Manitoba government owned casinos; and, we have proposed a very modest economic package: four rolls of quarters per employee, per hour... anyone who has ever set foot inside one of these casino operations understands these are very modest demands.

The Minnesota DFL has given Melanie Benjamin the right to lecture the DFL about human rights while she is one of the worst abusers of human rights in the world today by virtue of her leadership position which includes heading up the operations of two huge casinos which make money hand over fist twenty four hours a day, seven days a week every single day of the year; the Mille Lacs Band has made so much money in its casino operations that it can build a huge new hotel facility costing millions in Hinckley, Minnesota as the owners of the slot machines, the real owners of these casinos, rake in so much money without having to account for any of this wealth.

Floyd Jourdain, the Chair of the Red Lake Nation who is a Green Party member and big booster oversees a huge operation employing over one thousand workers, all paid poverty wages while working without any rights in the three casinos owned by Red Lake Gaming Enterprises. The Red Lake Tribal Council is a party to a dirty back-room deal orchestrated by Minnesota DFL United States Congressman James Oberstar that traded the protection of the Big Bog as one of the world's primary freshwater aquifers in a peat mining for casino deal.

There really is a "casino capitalism." It is a capitalism where women workers suffer the worst of the abuse, and Native American women are abused the most... with women of child-bearing age working in these smoke-filled casinos suffering the worst of the worst as the ITUC, the AFL-CIO, and the Democratic Party give their complete support to this most deplorable of situations that workers have ever been forced to labor under by employers anyplace in the world.

One of the first Native American bands to get involved in casino ventures has just purchased the entire Hard Rock international conglomerate--- a huge, far flung empire spanning the globe consisting of casinos, restaurants, resorts, entertainment, radio stations, publishing, and recreation facilities.

The Time has come for Guy Ryder and the ITUC to act in accordance to their words in this press release:


ITUC Online

Better maternity protection: a social emergency, a trade union priority

Brussels, 2 March 2007 (ITUC OnLine): Pregnancy tests as a precondition
for employment, dismissal of pregnant women, inadequacy and
non-application of the right to paid maternity leave, women in atypical
sectors deprived of maternity rights, insufficient health care for
mothers and young children... the reproductive function of working women
remains a flagrant source of inequality and gender discrimination. In
the run up to International Women's Day, on 8 March, the ITUC calls on
governments, employers and trade union organisations to make maternity
protection an action priority.

Although the legislation in many countries guarantees health care,
employment protection and paid maternity leave, the gap between the law
and rights in practice is often huge. Women in atypical work, such as
informal economy activities, agriculture, home-based work, domestic work
or even part-time employment are the most vulnerable, being all too
often excluded from any form of social or employment protection.

Only a small minority of countries (13) has ratified ILO Convention 183
on maternity protection, adopted six years ago. The ITUC is therefore
calling on the governments and all those concerned to take every step
towards the ratification and implementation of this Convention, together
with accompanying Recommendation 191, the provisions of which include 18
weeks paid maternity leave. The ITUC insists on the need to ensure that
the law protects all women, including those working in atypical sectors,
whose numbers are ever increasing with the deregulation of labour
markets throughout the world.

"The fundamental challenge is not only to meet the individual needs of
mothers but to recognise the value of the essential social function they
assume for the benefit of society as a whole. Maternity is too often
perceived as an obstacle to productivity and the accumulation of profit.
And yet recognition should be given to the considerable contribution
made by women, through their reproductive function, to the renewal of
populations and thus the labour force," says Guy Ryder, ITUC general

The ITUC calls on governments, employers and unions to work toward
valuing the fundamental social role assumed by women and to take
measures to promote the involvement of both parents in bringing up and
taking care of their children.