Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

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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...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Racism and the 2008 Election

"There are people who are not going to vote for him because he's black," James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters union, said. "And we've got to hope that we can educate people to put aside their racism and to put their own interests No. 1."

There is a certain irony in Hoffa's statement as it reflects the problems in the labor movement for many years.

Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern have been "setting aside" the struggle against racism for so long it has now come to haunt them in the 2008 Election.

For some twenty years, James Hoffa, John Sweeney and Andy Stern along with the likes of Lane Kirkland have tried to conceal their own racism as they became part of establishing the Indian Gaming Industry... these "union leaders" worked out backroom deals with Democratic Party politicians and mobsters that traded off the rights of casino workers in return for huge payoffs in pension fund monies and dues being invested in building the Indian Gaming Industry... first the Teamster pension funds, then, when this wasn't enough, the teacher union pension funds were brought into play.

The racism of the building trades unions has been most apparent as these unions, from the get-go, colluding with the Teamster's Union, set out to work out "sweetheart contracts" with the mobsters for whom the Native American bands are fronting... the likes of the Frank Fertitta Family and the Kansas City mob to which these unions' pension fund managers have been working in cahoots for years.

How can James Hoffa possibly call on his membership to "set aside racism" when, for many of these members, being engaged in a racist campaign against workers of color is responsible for them having jobs hauling materials onto the construction sites and delivering the materials required to keep the profits of the Indian Gaming Industry rolling in as more than two-million casino workers, mostly workers of color--- the majority young women of child-bearing age, are employed in these smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages and without any rights which protect all other workers under state, federal or tribal labor laws?

For casino workers employed in the Indian Gaming Industry, the 2008 Election is about "class" and "race."

Even the much ballyhooed "Employee Free Choice Act" (Card Check)will not apply to those employed in the Indian Gaming Industry.

For years, the AFL-CIO, and now Change to Win, leaders have supported a minimum wage that is a poverty wage--- the most disgraceful racist action of all. James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern are fully aware that a minimum wage that is anything but a real living wage makes sure that workers of color remain impoverished... no where is this more evident than on the Indian Reservations where upwards of 60% of the population is relegated to a life of poverty as a result of organized labor failing to fight for a minimum wage that is a real living wage. For over 100 years, the top leadership of organized labor has been willing to look the other way, pretending that the plague of poverty destroying the Indian Nations has not existed... sheer racism.

In fact, James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern have done as much as any corporate executive to help racism thrive as they have tried to stymie and thwart rank and file movements aimed at fighting for black, white, brown, yellow and red unity of the working class movement.

Not a peep or a whimper of protest has come from James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern concerning "at-will hiring, at-will firing," the primary impediment to union organizing. "At-will hiring, at-will firing" has held back rank-and-file initiatives of working people to organize when these high-paid union bureaucrats have sat back and watch the most poverty-paid workers (many workers of color like those in the Indian Gaming Industry--- many of whom are women, as in the Indian Gaming Industry) being used as clubs over the heads of all workers to drive the standard of living of the entire working class down.

In twenty-eight states, including Michigan and Minnesota, "at-will hiring, at-will firing" is the law. "Card Check" will never break this barrier.

Right now, even as James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern hypocritically call on workers to "set aside their racism for this Election," these phony union "leaders" are conspiring with leaders of the Democratic Party to derail the single-payer universal health care movement--- an overt act of the most atrocious racism because everyone knows that the for-profit health care system of the health insurance industry is responsible for working people of color being the largest segment of the population suffering from lack of access to health care because people of color are also the largest segment of poverty paid workers who can not afford health care.

First James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern go along with the business Democrats in holding down the minimum wage; and now, James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern are colluding with these same Democrats and the insurance industry to derail the movement for single-payer universal health care... a double racist whammy from these "labor leaders" who arrogantly call on working people to "set aside their racism for the 2008 Election to elect Barack Obama."

And, the worst part of all of this calling on working people to "set aside their racism" is that racism isn't even the issue--- the issue is one of class.

The so-called "labor leaders" are afraid of the working class. They can't even get "working class" to roll off the tip of their tongues because their tongues are so twisted in lies. Instead, James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern talk about representing the "middle class." Well, there we have it... they are so far removed from the class struggle they don't even know what class they are collecting dues from.

The real racism is emanating from these mis-leaders of organized labor who have refused to bring forward working class issues into this campaign and then turn around and call their own members racist after these union "leaders" are, themselves, responsible for not only tolerating racism, but encouraging--- certainly there has been no ongoing educational campaign against racism in the labor movement for the last 60 years--- decades of racism in the union movement and in the Democratic Party which has become, once again, as corrupt and racist as the pre-Civil War Democratic Party.

Where were James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern as Bill and Hillary Clinton were spreading racism all along the campaign trail? They were silent.

If James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern were the least little bit sincere in their calls for an end to racism they would insist that Barack Obama:

1. Support a minimum wage that is a real living wage based upon the scientifically derived figures and calculations of the United States Department of Labor and its Bureau of Labor Statistics for all cost of living factors with the minimum wage constantly being updated on a weekly basis right along with the calculations from the Bureau of Labor Statistics--- and employer would simply follow the postings like they follow the stock market in the Wall Street Journal daily;

2. Single-payer universal health care as a step towards socialized health care is what America's workers need, nothing less;

3. Federal legislation as part of the "Employee Free Choice Act" which would make state legislation mandating "at-will hiring, at-will firing" illegal.

Most importantly, if James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern are to be taken seriously as opponents of racism in the United States, they will have to come out swinging vigorously in opposition to the most Draconian conditions since the days of chattel slavery which places some two-million American workers in smoke-filled casinos receiving poverty wages while being left at the mercy of the most viciously racist and violent mobsters in this country in the Indian Gaming Industry.

In fact, the pernicious forms of class collaborationist trade unionism promoted by James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern is itself a cesspool fomenting racism. These union "leaders" hypocritically talk about how workers need their unions to "have a voice at work" when any member of any of these unions will tell you straight out to your face they don't even have a voice in their own unions. How workers can have "a voice at work" when they can't even have a voice in their own unions needs to be explained by James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern. It is a good day when most union locals in the United States can even gather a quorum to conduct a union meeting. Often, even the gimmick of a raffle for a color television can not turn out a quorum for union meetings in many locals because workers know what they will be subjected to for voicing their opinions and concerns.

James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern talk about creating a "Green Economy and rebuilding America." Go out on any construction job in this country and you will see that hiring has reverted to the racist hiring practices of the past.

James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern refuse to call for public ownership of closing plants as a means to defend the gains of affirmative action... instead, "at-will hiring, at-will firing" has allowed workers of color to once again be last hired, first fired with working class women of color and youth of color suffering the worst affects of racism in hiring practices.

In Michigan, at the corruption plagued Gun Lake Casino venture, we see how the AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions have made a vicious appeal to racism in supporting the construction of this casino which will be managed by Frank Fertitta's Station Casino empire which has been built on the racist abuse of working people. Shameful. Disgusting. Uncaring. Insensitive. Anti-labor. Anti-union. And yes, racist.

It is no wonder that James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern would have the unmitigated gall to call on people to set aside their racism just to vote for Barack Obama because these labor "leaders" have built a very nice little corrupt little racket for themselves which could not exist without racism. It is they, and the corporate managements they serve, along with the do-nothing Democratic Party politicians, who should look in the mirror if in fact they are sincere in wanting to put an end to racism in this country; because, just as capitalism--- which breeds racism--- could not continue to exist in this country if it were to be challenged by James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern.

It is ironic we now have "progressives" who have lined up in support of Barack Obama along with James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern now, too, claiming that "racist white workers" are the major impediment to an Obama victory.

Workers trying to organize in the Indian Gaming Industry are offended by these phony union leaders like James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern who have dragged out a bunch of middle class intellectuals pontificating about "racism" as an excuse to cover up the shameful silence concerning the racism of these egg-heads and muddle-headed professors and "union leaders" who can't distinguish the "working class" from the "middle class" and have left the "capitalist ruling class" completely off the hook as being the main instigators of racism.

Casino workers trying to organize the Indian Gaming Industry have a message for James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern: We are willing to work ten times harder to elect Barack Obama than what he and your unions have helped us... let your egg-heads and muddle-headed professors do the calculation... ten times zero is what?

To James Hoffa, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Andy Stern I say:

Do not misinterpret this to be that we want to see Obama lose this election because like all working class people we do not want to see another four or eight or more years of Republican rule in the country and we sure as heck don't want to see a war monger and war criminal like John McCain sitting in the White House--- we can't even stand to see him sitting in the Senate; but don't come around with your holier than now pronouncements about "racism" being the impediment to an Obama victory when the problem is one of class.

Failing to understand this basic truth will lead to a Republican victory and you can blame yourselves should this happen because you have promoted the myth that the members you represent are part of the "middle class;" rather than, part of the working class.

The "middle class" is fertile ground for racism and other reactionary ideas to take root, it always has been... no doubt, you have left the working class for this middle class life long ago... now you pout and point your finger of blame at others when you should be pointing your fingers at yourselves.

Mr. Hoffa, start showing some respect for OUR interests by refusing to engage in racist sweetheart contracts promoting, encouraging and fostering racism in the Indian Gaming Industry.

Mr. Hoffa, I challenge you to bring forward any facts and figures to substantiate your ridiculous and highly offensive and alienating claim that there are any significant numbers of working people who are refusing to vote for Barack Obama because he is black; this is an outright lie being used to conceal the real reason working people are thinking about staying home on Election Day. In fact, the reason working people might not turn out to vote for Barack Obama and choose to stay home on Election Day is because they know they won't get anything in return for their votes. This has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with class... a concept you do not understand, nor appreciate.

In fact, Mr. Hoffa, to insinuate the problem is one of racism as you intentionally ignore class is an overt act of racism on your own part because you are attempting to set up a strawman to knock down to blame in case of an Obama defeat when Obama should be well on his way to a landslide victory given, alone, the overall anti-Republican sentiment which is just about universal among the working class.

Mr. Hoffa, your concern should be with the plight of working class people who are considering staying home on Election Day instead of a few backwards thinking workers who have picked up their racism from you.

Mr. Hoffa, you are the president of the powerful Teamster's Union yet you have never driven a truck, worked on a dock, in a laundry, or in a factory--- you have been a lawyer from the middle class and know absolutely nothing about the conditions under which working people in this country are forced to labor. You came by your office through a most disgusting campaign of racism and bigotry. You have put the mobsters back in control of the Teamster's Union. You are no one to talk about racism. Actually, Mr. Hoffa, there are probably more workers not going to vote for Obama because you are supporting him then there are racists.

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