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...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tobacco seen killing 6 million people next year

* Occupational exposure to secondhand smoke kills 200,000 workers every year.

The corrupt Democratic Party, working in cahoots with the Indian Gaming Industry, has forced over two-million casino workers to be exposed to second-hand smoke while working for poverty wages without any rights under state or federal labor laws.

Tobacco seen killing 6 million people next year


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tobacco use will kill 6 million people next year from cancer, heart disease, emphysema and a range of other ills, global cancer experts said in a report issued on Tuesday.

The new Tobacco Atlas from the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society estimates that tobacco use costs the global economy $500 billion a year in direct medical expenses, lost productivity and environmental harm.

"Tobacco's total economic costs reduce national wealth in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 3.6 percent," the report reads.

"Tobacco accounts for one out of every 10 deaths worldwide and will claim 5.5 million lives this year alone," the report said. If current trends hold, by 2020, the number will grow to an estimated 7 million and top 8 million by 2030.

Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on launched a tobacco center to oversee cigarettes and other related products, after winning the power to do so from Congress in June. On Tuesday it set up a committee of advisers to help guide it.

Over the past four decades, smoking rates have declined in rich countries like the United States, Britain and Japan while rising in much of the developing world, according to the nonprofit research and advocacy organizations.

Some other findings from the report, available at http://www.tobaccoatlas.org/:

* 1 billion men smoke -- 35 percent of men in rich countries and 50 percent of men in developing countries.

* About 250 million women smoke daily -- 22 percent of women in developed countries and 9 percent of women in developing countries.

* Smoking rates among women are either stable or increasing in several southern, central and eastern European countries.

* The risk of dying from lung cancer is more than 23 times higher for men who smoke than for nonsmokers and 13 times higher for women smokers.

* Tobacco kills one-third to one-half of those who smoke. Smokers die an average of 15 years earlier than nonsmokers.

* Nearly 60 percent of Chinese men smoke and China consumes more than 37 percent of the world's cigarettes.

* 50 million Chinese children, mostly boys, will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases.

* Tobacco use will eventually kill 250 million of today's teenagers and children.

* Nearly one-quarter of young people who smoke tried their first cigarette before the age of 10.

* Occupational exposure to secondhand smoke kills 200,000 workers every year.

"One hundred million people were killed by tobacco in the 20th century. Unless effective measures are implemented to prevent young people from smoking and to help current smokers quit, tobacco will kill 1 billion people in the 21st century," the report predicts.

China by far leads the world in cigarette production followed by the United States, Russia and Japan.

Publicly traded cigarette makers include Altria Group Inc's Philip Morris unit, Reynolds American Inc's R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Lorillard Inc's Lorillard Tobacco Co.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Alan Elsner)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Is Barack Obama's Popularity in the Polls Dropping Like A Lead-filled Balloon?

The media is reporting:

Poll: Americans losing confidence in Obama


WASHINGTON – A new poll says that Americans, concerned over the future of health care reform and anxious about the growing federal budget deficit, are losing faith in President Barack Obama.

The Washington Post-ABC News survey found that less that half of Americans — 49 percent — say they believe the president will make the right decisions for the country. That's down from 60 percent at the 100-day mark of the Obama presidency.

The poll published Friday says Obama's overall approval is 57 percent, 12 points lower than it was at its peak in April. Fifty-three percent disapprove of the way he's handling the budget deficit and his approval on health care continues to deteriorate.

The national survey was conducted Aug. 13-17 and has a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The fact of the matter is that Barack Obama was not elected because people supported him or his policies.

In fact, Barack Obama never articulated "what" his policies actually were while he was campaigning for the presidency; he mesmerized some with his promises of "hope" and "change."

In fact, Barack Obama won the election because people are fed up with the Republicans.

And, if the truth be told, not many people really believed Barack Obama would do things much differently than the Republicans... but, it is no longer a surprise to anyone that Barack Obama could be even worse than George Bush.

Barack Obama has turned out to be a warmonger like Lyndon Johnson, a liar like Richard Nixon, more crooked and corrupt than Bush and Cheney and a better actor than Ronald Reagan; to Wall Street's delight, Obama is not the dunce of a Gerald Ford.

And, now, when people are getting a good chance to see what kind of "change" Obama and the Democrats are really for with their health care fiasco, people want no part of Obama.

People went to the polls to vote in overwhelming numbers because they wanted an end to these dirty imperialist wars for oil and U.S. regional domination of the Middle East and what Obama and the Democrats are delivering is an expensive and long term occupation of the region through U.S. military force dictating to people how they will think, work, live and have their wealth and natural resources allocated in a way creating the largest profits for Wall Street coupon clippers.

In the area of health care, if a poll was to be taken which included expanding VA, the Indian Health Service and the National Public /health Service to include everyone on the same no-fee/no-premium basis upon which these programs--- when fully funded--- are intended to operate there is no question the majority of the American people would choose this route of socialized health care and socialized medicine.

It is not hard to figure out that Barack Obama's popularity is on the skids to oblivion just like this rotten capitalist system itself is...

The only remaining question to be answered is: Will the American people be satisfied with a brief stay in Obama's created purgatory as they make their way to hell?

Capitalism has spun a web of corruption that is being held together by racism and lies as the Wall Street parasites suck their many victims dry like a trapped fly in a spider's web... this is the nature of a thoroughly rotten system based upon exploitation of man by man where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

If ever there was a time when the American people should organize take to the streets and organize to take matters into their own hands rather than meekly waiting until the next Election, that time is now.

And the struggle for real health care reform should be only the beginning of a movement and struggle to turn this country around by challenging Wall Street for power.

Organizationally we need to develop some kind of "people's lobby" to accomplish real health care reform, bring the troops home and put an end to these disgraceful home foreclosures and evictions... a "people's lobby" pushing for a "people's bailout" is what the requirements of the moment are.

Put Barack Obama out on a used car lot selling the clunkers and he will do just fine.

Alan L. Maki

Friday, August 7, 2009

Health care reform

Winning any reform requires that people thoroughly understand the issues and what needs to be done.

Health care reform is no exception; the complexities involved in health care reform require working people to take even more time in studying and understanding the issues involved. When it comes to winning reforms of substance--- like single-payer universal health care or something much more substantive like a national public health care system which would be socialized health care--- under this rotten and thoroughly corrupt capitalist system where everything, including health care, is turned into a racket and a scheme for some to profit and grow rich, winning battles and struggles for reform require we be up-to-speed on all the developments and completely understand what is happening.

For almost forty years I have been involved in the struggles for health care reform in this country and I had the opportunity to study and experience the Canadian Health Care system for ten years--- not just through reading magazines, newspaper and books; but, by living in Manitoba Canada and experiencing the health care system first hand: by using it.

What I have found is the American people still understand very little when it comes to understanding why we are in this health care mess that is now a full-blown crisis with some forty-six million people without access to health care, many more having to choose between health care and keeping their home, with many working class people taking drastic cuts in their standards of living in order to pay--- in one way or another--- for rapidly rising increases in health care costs while the middle class and the wealthy few are relatively content. And I make a distinction between working class and middle class--- the two are not one and the same as some would have us believe which adds to the massive confusion on this issue because Barack Obama and the Democrats are intentionally using the term "middle class" to further confuse this issue.

Further complicating and confusing this issue of health care reform are the so-called "labor leaders" living on middle class salaries derived from the dues of working people who add to this confusion because many of them confuse their middle class standing as being the same as that of union members, and the fact that they are supposed to be representing working people who pay the dues which pay their salaries has been severely compromised as their thinking which stems from their middle class status prevents these labor leaders from understanding the plight of the vast majority of working people who are not in their unions to begin with because there has been an unwillingness and failure of these union "leaders" invest their vast sums to organize the unorganized... but, worse yet, these labor leaders have lost touch with the day-to-day struggle for existence most of their members now have to endure as they struggle to feed their families, pay utility bills, strive to meet the mortgage payments on their homes and cars and whatever else they have on their credit cards ranging from boats to snowmobiles and all kinds of high-priced "toys" mostly associated with recreational activities, not to mention summer homes and cottages.

In order to successfully achieve health care reform we are going to have to understand just who this Barack Obama is and who he works for because if you think that Barack Obama is a "friend of the people" you are going to get the royal shafting with his so-called "health care reform package" known as the "public option."

Barack Obama is nothing but a shrewd con-artist taken in by the Wall Street coupon clippers--- the military-financial-industrial complex--- to do their dirty work of trying to save a dying capitalist system on the road to oblivion... perhaps making a long stop in some kind of purgatory on its way to hell.

With the system crumbling, real health care reform becomes even more needed now than at any other time because more and more people are going to be joining the ranks of the forty-six million people now without proper and needed access to health care.

Barack Obama's "public option" is designed, not to enable people to access health care; the primary purpose behind Barack Obama's "public option" has to do with protecting the profits of the health care industry that has grown so fat all the players can not longer squeeze into the feeding trough.

Barack Obama and the Democrats killed single payer universal health care with quite a little help from their muddle-headed and confused middle class intellectual liberal, progressive and leftists supporters who have come to dote and drool over Barack Obama's every word like my dog Fred, a Chocolate Lab, sits under the dinner table drooling in anticipation of being tossed a round steak bone.

In fact, Barack Obama has designed a scheme, under the confusing title of "public option" that will greatly expand the public feeding trough to let these over-stuffed fat pigs from the insurance companies, private for-profit hospitals, HMO's, pharmaceutical companies and the greedy, money-grubbing doctors continue to access the public feeding trough even though they have grown so fat on profits derived from health care that they are ready to explode.

Reforms make things better.

The so-called "public option" Barack Obama and the Democrats are proposing will make this health care mess worse while increasing, rather than decreasing, the number of people who will not have access to health care.

It is very interesting, that the claim being made that this "public option" scheme will provide some kind of relief to some of the forty-six million people presently without access to health care will only come about AFTER Barack Obama is elected to his second term.

Barack Obama is nothing but a self-promoting, self-serving opportunist Wall Street politician who might have learned a lot from his Marxist mentor Frank Marshall Davis but I am sure that Frank Marshall Davis would be rolling in his grave to learn that Barack Obama is using what he learned from him against the working class. Frank Marshall Davis taught the young college bound Barack Obama about how only a public health care system--- socialized health care--- could solve the health care needs of the working class.

Now, Barack Obama has taken his knowledge of Marxism and used that knowledge to mislead working people into believing the "public option" is something that it is not and Obama and the Democrats have the Republicans and their "Tea Party" friends calling this "public option" socialized health care and some kind of Bolshevik plot designed to undermine this "great" temple of "free enterprise" while undermining this great "bastion of democracy"--- "watch out," Rush Limbaugh exclaims, "the commies are coming."

As a result, a false and phony caricature of the "public option" is being created and Barack Obama and the Democrats just love this because they know the American people want socialized health care.

How convenient for Barack Obama and the Democrats having these Tea Party people calling for tarring and feathering Barack Obama and the Democrats for being socialists and communists.

Barack Obama is as much a socialist, communist or Marxist as Benito Mussolini the murderous Italian fascist dictator was; in fact, in many of the ways that Barack Obama operates puts him right in league with this fascist swine. I don't think it is a coincidence that Frank Marshall Davis taught Barack Obama about these fascists like Benito Mussolini, either, because Barack Obama seems to have learned very well... the problem is, Barack Obama learned very well and is now using the very things Frank Marshall Davis warned him about fascism to use what he was taught against the very people that Frank Marshall Davis encouraged him to use his knowledge and education to help by imparting Marxist thinking among the working class.

Agree with me or not about Barack Obama, the fact remains that Barack Obama is no friend of the people or of the working class; Barack Obama is for Barack Obama and he bends and bows to Wall Street and carries out the agenda of these industrialists and bankers of whom the health care industry only plays second fiddle to the military-financial-industrial complex when it comes to ripping off the people and causing so much misery.

The needed reforms...

First things first.

There are those in the single-payer universal movement intent on proclaiming that single-payer is not socialized health care.

This is true; however, by making this distinction that single-payer is not socialized health care they are undermining their own movement because the fact of the matter is, the overwhelming majority of the American people support socialized health care and the proof of this is that most people will tell you they want a health care system along the lines of VA (Veteran's) or the Indian Health Service--- the two best socialized health care systems in the entire world; the VA and Indian Health Service are real "public options" in that they are fine examples of how good and efficient public health care really is--- public health care is far superior to any other health care system in terms of how inexpensive it is when properly and fully publicly funded with administrations that put health care needs of people first while supplying the health care needs through public delivery... in fact, the supporters of single-payer have allowed Barack Obama and the Democrats to kill off single-payer universal health care...

We can thank the Progressive Democrats of America and the Progressives for Obama--- these muddle-headed middle class intellectuals and the labor union mis-leaders--- for this because they stabbed the single-payer universal health care movement in the back just as it was reaching a maximum potential in support among the American people when they then, intentionally, went behind our backs and made an agreement--- based upon Barack Obama's political future--- with Barack Obama to drop single-payer universal health care from being considered for inclusion in the Platform of the National Democratic Party just prior to the Democratic National Convention.

Those of us here in Minnesota felt the full brunt of this rough, jagged dagger being driven into our backs after we worked tirelessly for six long years to win an overwhelming majority of delegates at our Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party State Convention to support our single-payer universal health care resolution. For six years, I traveled Minnesota, from the Iowa border to the Canadian border; from the shores of Lake Superior to the Red River Valley... speaking to groups--- small and large--- in the living rooms of workers and farmers and in union halls and church basements... on Indian Reservations and in the Club Houses of Edina.

I spoke of the need to win single-payer legislation as a step towards socialized health care. Make no mistake, people are not afraid of talking about the need for socialized health care here in Minnesota where the only two governments that ever existed without corruption scandals were the socialist Farmer-Labor Party governments headed up by Floyd B. Olson and Elmer Benson with considerable help from communist John Bernard who was to become a United States Congressman from the Iron Range.

Minnesotans know and understand what all Americans know but have been prevented from speaking freely about: only socialized health care--- a full blown public health care system--- can solve this health care mess by bringing quality health care to everyone in a country with such a huge population... over 300 million people and growing... all of whom require health care and are ENTITLED to health care--- from prenatal to grave without any exclusions--- by right of birth.

The American Medical Association has been screaming "Bolshevism" for over 90 years every time the word "public health care" comes forward in this country. And, for good reason they scream "Bolshevism" because the Soviet Union was the first country in the world to provide its people with a completely publicly funded, publicly administered and publicly delivered health care system... second to none until VA and then the Indian Health Service came along in our own country which the AMA is as loath to discuss as the Soviet health care system WAS--- good old capitalist gangster capitalism put an end to seventy years of the first country in the world proving the supremacy of a publicly funded, publicly administered, and publicly delivered health care system--- socialized health care.

I do not hear the AMA or anyone else calling for closing down the VA or Indian Health Care Service on the grounds that these are socialized health care systems.

Nor do I hear the AMA or the insurance industry calling for shutting down our other very successful socialized institutions... where are those calling for closing our public schools--- only idiots would think of making the claim that any other kind of institution other than public education could educate 300 million people. If private education can't teach a nation to read, it sure as heck can't provide adequate health care for 300 million people. And, who among these Republicans and Tea Party people would be dumb enough to tell any U.s. Congressperson or United States Senator that they should be taken out and tarred and feathered if they don't close down the United States Postal Service... if you can't even trust a letter to reach its destination without a socialized postal system, how can anyone expect that the free enterprise system is going to deliver health care?

I would like to hear the Tea Party people call for closing down fire and police departments because they are socialist enterprises that have served the people well... try privatizing the police departments and what do you get--- Blackwater. Does anyone want Blackwater thugs patrolling their streets and protecting school children?

It is idiotic and insane to believe after over two-hundred years of "entrepreneurial" doctoring which has led us to this health care mess that the private financing now consuming ever more from an expanding public trough, private administration and private delivery of health care can solve this mess let alone provide adequate health care for 300 million people in this country as 46,000,000 people are without access to health care and as unemployment rises with each new day this number soars right along with the suffering working people are being forced to endure as Barack Obama and his Wall Street masters through Rosy Scenario provide us with this sage advice:

"The thing about recessions is that they always end."

Does anyone actually believe this will be the case?

Just recently, I traveled Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan talking to people one-on-one and in small gatherings at post offices and at public libraries and in people's homes about what kind of health care reform we need.

Barack Obama and any member of the U.S. House or Senate can go out amongst the people and find out what I have discovered:

People want a national public health care program as a solution to this health care mess.

Toss in VA and the Indian Health Service with all the other options being discussed and people are going to pick these excellent health care services that don't cost people a single penny.

Here is what we need to do:

First; we need to get health care to the forty-six million people without health care... this is a national prerequisite tantamount to a national emergency.

Continuing to deny 46 million people health care to save Barack Obama's political butt is unconscionable.

The immediate task and solution: Combine VA and the Indian Health Service into a public health care agency covering Veterans, Indians and the forty-six million people now without health care... this is only common sense and the right thing to do.

Second, serve notice on Barack Obama and the Democrats (we can forget the Republicans they are so far out in right field picking their noses they aren't even in the game); we need to serve notice on the Democrats that if they continue with this phony scheme of the intentionally and deliberately confusing mis-named "public option" that they are not going to be getting our votes in 2010 or any other time.

We need to finally tell Barack Obama to pack up and move on with his con-game. Let him go to Canada to push his "public option" for Bay Street. Lol! There would be a socialist revolution in Canada before he could get across the border.

What we need to focus on is solving this health care mess for the rest of the American people... we need a single-payer universal health care system that will work in conjunction with a vastly expanded public health care system as a first step to creating a fully operational public health care system--- socialized health care.

For those who don't like the idea of socialized health care... well, don't call the local fire department if your house starts burning, don't bother sending your children to public schools, deliver your own letters and mail, and go out and pay thirty dollars for every book you want to read instead of going to the public library--- get clunked over the head and robbed by a thug, call Blackwater, don't bother the local police... and, oh, ya... give your Social Security check back to the government...

... and just keep calling your doctor who thinks private delivery of health care is the cat's meow and the way to go--- the same doctor who you can't trust telling you that you need an operation because it will cure you--- or pay for membership at a country club reserved only for the well-heeled.

Obviously, we can't build much of a public health care system with our resources being squandered on wars.

And, what we need as a base of operations for a public health care system is 800 public health care centers strategically spread out across this country serving the health care needs of people instead 800 U.S. foreign military bases dotting the globe protecting Wall Street's interests. Kind of funny when Wall Street wants its investments protected they call upon the largest socialized institution in the world: the United States military.

Something to think about around the dinner table.

Don't forget, let your Congress person and Senators know that you won't be voting for them or Barack Obama... that they can rely on the votes of the lobbyists from the health care industry whose bribes they have taken to get re-elected as we work to build a new political movement and a real progressive party based upon an assessment of our problems and the solutions required using the advice the Marxist, Frank Marshall Davis, really taught Barack Obama... it is nice Barack Obama has brought the accusation from the right that he is some kind of Marxist, socialist or Communist down to laughing off this accusation that he shared a peanut butter sandwich with a buddy in grade school...

... well, what we Marxists like Frank Marshall Davis now want to do is make sure the wealth of this country now being horded by the Wall Street coupon clipper crowd gets shared, too--- just like Barack Obama shared his peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a school chum; only we don't want Barack Obama to share his peanut butter and jelly sandwich--- nor do we even care to be served a beer in the White House rose garden--- we want a national public health care system paid for by money saved ending these dirty oil wars and by the greedy Wall Street crowd of coupon clippers Barack Obama is working for... after all, we are talking about the wealth created by the working class and the need for the fair and equitable distribution of this wealth during a national emergency... and 46 million people not having access to health care is nothing short of a national emergency.

By the way, Barack Obama has taken care of the members of the American Medical Association by allocating $250,000,000,000.00 (two-hundred fifty billion dollars) towards fees for doctors and hospitals in INCREASED FEES for health care services obtained by people through Medicare... another instance of Barack Obama expanding the public trough making it easier for these greedy, money grubbing doctors to feed...

... couldn't we call this a form of a form of "socialism" for the well-heeled and wealthy... or should we just call it what it really is, plain old capitalist greed and corruption with those with the most once again profiting from the problems of the many?

I would also add, there are those who repeatedly point out that health care reform never would have taken place had not the socialist Tommy Douglas been calling for socialized health care--- single-payer was the compromise... something the advocates of single-payer universal health care might want to keep in mind.

Personally, based on what we have witnessed with the huge influence big-business has over the Democrats and they way the health insurance industry paid Barack Obama and the Democrats to kill single-payer universal health care, I doubt this country will see any meaningful health care reform until we stop trying to influence the Democrats; and instead, start building a movement with the aim of taking power out of the hands of this Wall Street crowd that is more comfortable funding "stupid" wars than real health care reform.

I would note, that from Frank Marshall Davis, Barack Obama learned about imperialist wars being stupid wars just as Barack Obama learned from Frank Marshall Davis that private, for-profit health care is just as stupid as imperialist wars and for the same reason summed up with one word: P-R-O-F-I-T-S.

Just like if we want real peace and not Barack Obama's phony concept of peace... we will have to unite and fight for real health care reform... something else Frank Marshall Davis taught Barack Obama... and Barack Obama seems to understand this all too well... therefore he knows he has to keep people confused and disoriented before they figure out what he is doing in trying to ram this sham health care "reform" down our throats... kind of like doctors and hospitals letting patients die after Medicare stops paying.

First cover those 46 million people without health care in an expanded VA/Indian Health Service public health care program; step up the drive for single-payer universal health care as a first step towards socialized health care… it takes a struggle to win.

Tell Barack Obama and the Democrats to take their “public option” and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine… some place other than the corporate boardrooms and in the brown paper bags toted around Washington by the lobbyists.

Alan L. Maki

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Can Labor Get Out of This Mess?

This article by David Bacon was published in “In These Times” and is very typical of the thinking coming out of those on the left who call themselves “progressives for Obama.”

Following the article I have posted my comments and thinking on this issue.

I should have mentioned the signs in the photograph in my comments… “Save the middle class” carried by workers decked out in flags as U.S. imperialism is murdering people all over the world. David Bacon should have started his analysis with this scenario of workers not even understanding what “class” they are in.

Yours in struggle and solidarity,
Alan L. Maki


Can Labor Get Out of This Mess? (Part One)
July 29
9:01 am

Union members protest outside U.S. Bankruptcy Court on June 30, 2009 in New York City. General Motors appeared in the court to seek approval of a plan to sell its assets under federal reorganization.

For anyone who loves the labor movement, it’s not unreasonable today to ask whether we’ve lost our way. California’s huge healthcare local is in trusteeship, its leading organizing drive in a shambles. SEIU’s international is at war with its own members, and now with UNITE HERE, whose merger of garment and hotel workers is unraveling.

In 1995, following the upsurge that elected John Sweeney president of the AFL-CIO, the service and hotel workers seemed two of the unions best able to organize new members. Their high-profile campaigns, like Justice for Janitors and Hotel Workers Rising, were held out as models. Today they’re in jeopardy.

This conflict has endangered our high hopes for labor law reform, and beyond that for an economic recovery with real jobs programs, fair trade instead of free trade, universal healthcare, and immigration reform that gives workers rights instead of raids. The ability of unions to grow in size and political power is on the line.

Today only 12 percent of workers belong to unions, and less in the private sector—the lowest level of organization since the years before the great longshore strike of 1934. And falling numbers aren’t the whole story.

Some labor leaders now say that only huge deals at the top, far from the control of rank-and-file workers, can bring in new members on the scale we need. To make those deals attractive to employers, they argue, unions have to be willing to make deep concessions in wages and rights, and in our political demands—on everything from single-payer healthcare to immigration reform.

We need some better ideas about how unions should organize—we need to rethink even what a union actually is.

Part of our difficulty is that our labor movement, and workers themselves, think about their interests in relatively narrow terms. By comparison with workers in South Africa, El Salvador, or even Mexico and Canada, we are very conservative and reluctant to see the root of our problems in the system itself, or to talk openly about the need to change it drastically. It is more important than ever that workers see their class interest. But what is that interest? And how should we defend it?
Our labor movement has resources and wealth that are enormous by comparison with most unions around the world. But what good is it if we don’t at least use it effectively to defend ourselves, or if it even becomes a brake on our willingness to take risks, like those French workers who lock their bosses in their offices, or Mexican workers, who facing the declaration of their strike in Cananea as illegal, have defied and fought it for the last two years?

Over the last four decades, corporations have built an international system of production and distribution that links together the workers of many countries, but in which workers have no control over the expropriation and distribution of the wealth they create. Further, this system has forced devastating and permanent unemployment on entire generations of U.S. workers, especially in African-American and Chicano neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, neo-liberal economic policies displace communities in developing countries, creating a reserve labor force of hundreds of millions, migrating both within and across borders, desperate for work.

Employers have always used the migration of people to this country as a labor supply system. Today that use is more overt than ever. NAFTA alone created such displacement in Mexico that over 6 million Mexican workers and farmers have come here looking for a way to guarantee their families’ survival. Our immigration policy is then used as the means to criminalize not just their labor (by making it a federal crime for a worker without papers to have a job) but the very status of millions of people, who, like everyone else, have no alternative but to work.

Large corporations, with allies in the administration, among lobbying groups in Washington, and even in our labor movement itself, are now proposing changes that would substitute contract labor programs for family reunification, force all workers to carry a national ID in order to work, and require the firing of millions of workers who can’t get the required “work authorization.”

Our labor movement was organized by immigrants and their children—by people who came from somewhere else. But our unions have been organized in a working class deeply divided by race and nationality. The key issue confronting our labor movement for the last 180 years is inclusion or exclusion.

Today, undocumented immigrants ask: Will the unions I paid my dues to defend me when the government tells my boss to fire me because I don’t have papers? It’s not an abstract question. Two-hundred and fifty-four workers at Overhill Farms, fired two months ago in Los Angeles, are asking that question to UFCW Local 770 today.

For unions and workers to survive in this environment, they must demand increasingly radical reforms. Accepting the limits of “what’s politically possible” as defined by Washington insiders, whether they seek to prevent discussion of single-payer or the repeal of employer sanctions, is a recipe for disaster. We cannot defend ourselves if our only goal is to “be at the table.”

Each month for almost a year, over half a million people have lost their jobs. Meanwhile, banks have been showered with hundreds of millions of dollars to keep them afloat, while working families can’t get their loans renegotiated so they can stay in their homes. Yet there has been no national demonstration called by either labor federation, demanding a direct federal jobs program or redirecting the bailout to workers instead of the wealthy.

[Editor’s note: Part 2 of “Can Labor Get Out of This Mess?” will appear on this site next Tuesday, August 4.)

Posted by David Bacon •

• Can Labor Get Out of This Mess? (Part One)

alanmaki 1 Aug 2009

In fact, the unions have been collaborating with employers to oppress and exploit workers in this country. Many union contracts don’t even provide a living wage… about 40% of the present union contracts are nothing but poverty wage contracts.

Over two-million people are employed in the Indian Gaming Industry now employing over two-million workers at over 350 casinos spread out across this country working in smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights under state, federal, tribal or international labor laws or standards. These casinos are largely built under terms of sweetheart contracts by union members who pay dues even though they are not protected by union contracts and their pension funds are financing the construction of these casinos. The “Compacts” creating this “unique” Indian Gaming Industry were created and crafted with the support of the unions and their Democratic Party partners without a whimper of protest from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Workers don’t want to join existing unions because they view them as corrupt, which they are; and just another of many institutions out to profit through dues collection.

Most unions have a difficult time even turning out a constitutionally mandated quorum for regular meetings. And workers who do bring their problems to union meetings and the union staffs are treated as “trouble-makers.”

The unions have refused to fight for implementation of affirmative action; they have refused to initiate a real struggle for socialized health care and they have done a terrible job educating workers against racism and how imperialism is destroying lives of workers here at home while killing workers abroad.

Today’s unions are operating under the influence and dominance of the capitalist ideology of “pragmatism” rather than class struggle.

David Bacon is refusing to address the real problems in unions here… perhaps he should get a job in a loud, noisy, smoke-filled casino where he would be forced to work without any rights and go to an AFL-CIO or CTW union for help… then he will find out what is really wrong in today’s “labor movement.”

Without a strong “left” and a strong Communist Party among the rank and file, the labor movement will continue to flounder as Barack Obama carries out Wall Street’s agenda of attacking labor at home and workers abroad in quest of greater profits while making the working class pay for the problems workers had no part in creating.

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



I added a further comment...

1 Aug 2009

6:56 am

I forgot to mention… check out the photograph.

Because the UAW has left the education of auto workers to the Big Three, workers don’t even know what class they are in… check the photo out… these workers are demanding that the “middle class” be saved when they should be concerned about their own class: the working class.

Alan L. Maki