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...

Monday, June 9, 2014

CounterPunch provides a feeble analysis of the struggle for $15.00 in Seattle.

What kind of "analysis" do you call this?


There is no objectivity at all in this "analysis."

Not one single word here about the failure to link the struggle for a higher Minimum Wage to cost-of-living factors nor any mention of the failure to bring forward the fact that every single working class family is experiencing a "Cost-of-Living Crisis."

The struggle for an increased Minimum Wage is not a struggle over a "number;" the struggle is for a living wage based on what goods and services working people can purchase with their wages.

Socialist Alternative and 15 Now were sucked into the exact same fold of class collaboration as the labor "leaders" they claim to despise who can't win increased wages because they fail to note actual cost-of-living factors.

In fact, Socialist Alternative and 15 Now failed to note that many, if not most, union contracts provide for wages of less than $15.00 an hour.

It is highly unlikely any union with contracts of less than $15.00 an hour is going to support a movement for the Minimum Wage to be a real living wage based on all cost-of-living factors unless the union is prepared to recognize that workers can win an improved standard-of-living through mass class struggle which they can't win at the bargaining table--- check out the millionaire members of the AFL-CIO's Executive Council and see how many of these labor "leaders" would be willing to put the resources of their unions into the kind of mass struggle that would be required to win a real living Minimum Wage. Also check out the number of contracts each of these unions have that provide wages less than $15.00 an hour.

Even the UAW has a three tiered contract with workers on the low end of the wage scale getting $14.00 an hour. 

The struggle over the Minimum Wage has to be related to actual cost-of-living and the increase in the Minimum Wage has to come now not years later when the amount will have no relationship to cost-of-living in terms of today's living standards.

To put this in perspective we only need to ask one question: Would any union negotiate a contract in terms of today's living standards only to have the contract go into effect two, four or ten years from now with the terms of the negotiated wages remaining the same at the time of implementation of the contract?

Why then would we call $15.00 a victory when it is at best borderline poverty today when we all know workers will be able to purchase even less at the time of implementation years from now than what they can purchase with $15.00 today? This makes no sense at all.

And, once again, the lowest paid workers will have to wait the longest for an increase in their pay!

​The​ solution to the Minimum Wage issue is very simple but would face massive opposition from the Wall Street crowd, which includes their Democratic and Republican parties--- the two-party trap the working class is caught up in--- and the Democrats' coalition partners, the foundation-funded outfits as well as the millionaire labor "leaders" who have shoved concession contract and poverty wages down the throats of their own members with no relationship to actual cost-of-living, the "Cost-of-Living Crisis" for working class families nor soaring corporate profits--- the wealth created largely by poverty-waged workers all with no regard for the standard-of-living and quality-of-life for the working class.

Socialist Alternative and $15 Now may consider this a "victory;" but, what this provides in terms of an improved standard-of-living for working class families says otherwise.

​This "victory" does not improve the standard-of-living for impoverished workers and their families right now; and, it won't provide a higher standard-of-living along with an improved quality of life at the time of implementation over what workers and their families are experiencing now.

The one and only way to address the problems with the Minimum Wage is to legislatively tie the Minimum Wage to all cost-of-living factors in the eight categories each with two-hundred sub-categories used by the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, then index this to inflation with a periodic increase in the Minimum Wage to provide an improvement in the standard-of-living which would begin to provide a decent quality-of-life befitting a working class creating such enormous wealth now being hoarded by the Wall Street crowd.

And, with millions of workers unemployed and millions more forced into part-time employment we need to be discussing solutions to the Minimum Wage question along with the need for full employment and a Basic Income Guarantee.​

This requires some kind of broadening of the New Deal to reflect economic realities of the present.

All of this should become part of an economic package that could be included in some kind of "21st Century Full-Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" since it will be pretty much impossible to create the millions of jobs required paying real living wages as long as these dirty wars and militarism consumes so much of our national wealth.

Like with health care reform, we can't expect reform to be initiated by Wall Street's Democratic Party--- working people need a party of our own--- a progressive working class-based people's party to take up this struggle.

Democrats and their foundation-funded think-tank outfits and millionaire labor leader allies are simply not capable of thinking outside the capitalist box as is required if we are serious about real economic reforms intended--- not for political expediency--- but to improve the lives of working people... our entire working class.

For instance:

We could solve many of our economic problems which have resulted in deep-seated social problems simply by putting millions of people to work filling potholes in our roads and highways, creating a National Public Health Care System which would provide the American people with free health care at hundreds of community and neighborhood health care centers which would create some twelve to 15,000,000 new jobs, a National Public Child Care System which would provide free child care and create well over three-million new jobs--- all for a lot less than these present dirty imperialist wars and this insane militarism is costing us... and, with such a people before profits and wars approach to the economy and government we could start closing down the prisons instead of our public schools.

The insanity of Wall Street's agenda has to end.

We need to challenge Wall Street for political and economic power and the struggle for a real living Minimum Wage is a good place to begin... but, the struggle for a real living wage needs to be developed taking into account the relationship between wages and cost-of-living.

Democrats and the well-heeled muddle-headed middle class intellectuals and millionaire labor leaders who are trying to perpetuate the hoax that it is possible to talk about some kind of "economic populism" without confronting militarism and wars are not going to initiate or lead these required struggles--- the leadership is going to have to come from the grassroots and rank-and-file movements of which there are far too few and this is not going to change until leftists begin to think very publicly outside the capitalist box. Without hesitation, and without fear, we need to place our socialist ideas in the public square but these ideas need to be based on real facts and figures not numbers pulled from a hat which provide our Wall Street enemies the opportunity to derail our movements.

Check out what is being passed off as an "analysis" of what has gone down in Seattle... (anyone seen the actual legislation?)

This is a very feeble analysis--- at best. With an "analysis" like this one below, it is going to be difficult for working people to win anything: 

Seattle Approves $15 an Hour
Anatomy of a Minimum Wage Victory

CounterPunch.org - Tom BARNARD - June 6-8, 2014

On June 2, 2014, Seattle made history by being the first city in the country to pass legislation to raise the minimum wage for workers to $15 an hour.

Anyone predicting such a result two years ago would have been branded as hopelessly naive at best. Yet though the vote was taken by the City Council, the credit for such a victory belongs largely to two unlikely forces operating in tandem in the organization known as $15 Now. The first was a genuine socialist organization, Socialist Alternative, who had already managed the politically unthinkable feat of electing a City Council member, Kshama Sawant. The second force were the people of Seattle themselves, from which sprang hundreds of activists willing to go to demonstrations and rallies, pass out leaflets, collect signatures for ballot measures, pack public hearings and attend City Council meetings, where they forcefully stated their demands and denounced each effort of the politicians to weaken the original proposal.

For the first time in recent history, the initiative for a significant reform came from and remained with the people, despite all attempts by the corporate sector and their political allies to defeat it or render it harmless, and deaden the ferment behind it. That is a history which deserves a second look, for its success may be a preview of future struggles to come, in Seattle and across the country.

The hallmark of a real mass struggle fought to a conclusion is that everyone eventually reveals their true nature. The initial phase of the struggle may seem murky, with some forces out in front while others keep their cards close to their chests. But the inevitable sharpening of the struggle compels the forces that represent the various classes to show who they stand for and with. In producing an anatomy of this struggle, it’s useful to look at the roles of six political actors: newly-elected Mayor Ed Murray, the big business sector, the small business community, the Seattle King County Labor Council that represents the large unions, the Seattle City Council, and $15 Now itself.

Mayor Murray: Voted into office in 2013, in the same election that swept socialist Kshama Sawant to a City Council seat on the promise of a $15 an hour minimum wage, the Mayor was presented with an immediate problem. On the one hand, Sawant had so successfully channeled the mass motion around a $15 minimum wage in her campaign, both Murray and his opponent had to make enacting it one of their campaign planks. The $15 an hour SeaTac ballot initiative, the strikes by fast food workers in different cities, the rallies here for the measure, and the election of Sawant herself made that unavoidable. At the same time, the business community that supported Murray had absolutely no desire to enact any wage raise, let alone one that significant, if for no other reason that it came from a socialist and her working class supporters. What Murray needed was to create something that looked like $15 an hour but wasn’t, that would simultaneously mollify the business community, keep labor from uniting with Sawant, keep an initiative of any kind off the ballot, and isolate both Sawant’s forces and the more conservative members of the business coalition. A tall order indeed.

To do that, Murray needed a coalition he could present as representing the city as a whole, that he could both use as a smokescreen to weaken the measure and hopefully steal the motion away from $15 Now and its allies. The Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee was that tool – composed largely of the city’s corporate sector like Howard Wright III, owner of a Seattle’s largest hospitality corporation and the iconic Space Needle. It also had a sprinkling of small business owners, union officials, and, unavoidably, Sawant herself. Meeting outside the view of the public, it went as far as it could in weakening the measure without destroying the coalition itself by impelling the unions to bolt. A tip credit was put in, compensation for health insurance and other benefits was listed as part of the wage, a long multi-year phase-ins depending on the size of the business, with small businesses, defined as under 500 workers, were given the longest. When the IIAC finally announced its deal, the union members and the liberals were supportive, claiming the best deal was won, and demanding the deal be voted on by Seattle City Council exactly as it was. But though the Mayor was lauded for having driven the Committee to a deal, Councilperson Sawant denounced the corporate loopholes, and threatened to go to the ballot with the $15 Now plan – one without corporate loopholes. But more on that later.

Big Business: Early on, the major voices in the business community decided it was wise to present themselves as willing to compromise and only be interested in the fate of small businesses. Some truly surreal moments occurred, one being the CEO of Starbucks explaining that he could certainly pay his workers $15 an hour, but was “worried by the effect on small businesses” – this from a corporation responsible for mowing down more local coffeehouses and Mom and Pop eateries across the country, let alone in Seattle. Nonetheless, this argument was seized on by media to whip up opposition by small business owners, which in turn gave the politicians easy excuses to weaken the legislation, all the while allowing big business to hide their own opposition, and pretend to compromise on a deal through the Mayor’s Committee.

Yet once the “deal” was announced at a Seattle City Council meeting, it became obvious to everyone that there was in fact no deal, and that the exercise was just the opening move for corporate Seattle. As far as they were concerned, there wouldn’t be a measure until they got plenty of chances to lobby their friends on the Council in their time-honored fashion to try and weaken it still further. And a section of them formed their own group called “One Seattle”, promising to run their own initiative.

Small business: Whipped up to a panic by large business, various well-known restaurant owners like Tom Douglas and Dave Meinert insisted that this measure was the end of Western civilization, and that tumbleweeds would roll through the streets of Seattle if it were enacted. Even after being granted a seven-year phase in, a temporary credit for tips and benefits, Douglas was still darkly predicting it would cause 25% of all restaurants in Seattle to fail. Of course, since the majority of restaurants fail to last more than five years anyhow, this was a fairly safe bet.

What the hysteria did create was a screen for pro-business politicians and others to hide behind while they did their best to weaken the measure. There are of course small businesses that would be threatened eventually – those whose slender profit margins only existed in the first place by paying their workers the absolute minimum wage to begin with. Sawant’s response to that was to create a three-year phase in for any business under 250 workers, and ask the City Council to find ways to subsidize the costs through taxation on large businesses. The only response was to extend the phase in to any business under 500 workers. Her other proposals were met with deafening silence.

Labor and the “$15 for Seattle” coalition: The best way to achieve the goal of $15 an hour would be to create a strong enough movement to get a $15/hr. initiative on the ballot in 2014. Either such a measure would pass, or threat of one would force the politicians to enact something roughly as strong on their own. But the forces that make up the labor leadership in Seattle simply couldn’t go there. Tied by a thousand threads to the Democratic Party leaders in Seattle and beyond, incubated in the tradition of negotiation and not confrontation, and more or less allergic to movement-based politics, the labor leaders that make up the Seattle-King County Labor Council decided to take a different tack. They formed a coalition of themselves and labor-based community groups – known as $15 for Seattle.

Represented in the Mayor’s advisory committee, with friends on the City Council, they would issue statements, take positions, negotiate through back channels, stage the occasional small action for the press, but they would not call out their troops for a real fight. Some unions, particularly David Rolff of the SEIU was openly hostile to the idea of a ballot initiative. Others counseled endless patience, and to wait and see what the Mayor’s committee would come up with. Though initially willing to consult with $15 Now, and even have it as part of their coalition, once it became clear that a ballot initiative by $15 Now was a real possibility, they simply asked them to leave. The result was to weaken the overall movement, promote a weakened measure as a great deal, and then to howl in useless outrage when the City Council weakened it still further. This should be an object lesson to all those who think that progress lies only through following liberal champions whose only strategy is to “work through the process” to gain significant reforms.

At the same time, not all labor withheld support. The local IBEW 46 pledged its support, as did the ATU international, as well as AFSCME union, WFSE Local 1488. Casa Latina, a labor-based latino community organization, was also strongly supportive.

The Seattle CIty Council: When the Mayor’s Committee released its final draft plan, it was concluded by the unions and their liberal allies that enough pro-business loopholes existed that the Council would simply pass it. Little did they understand the depths to which the Council would stoop to please their business constituents, and ignore the needs and aspirations of working class citizens they claim to represent.

The ensuing struggle in the City Council revealed two factions, openly pro-business, and liberals willing to surrender to the Mayor’s plan, with Sawant off to one side flaying the pro-business faction every chance she got. The liberals desperately wanted to go with the Mayor’s plan, and thought they had that in the bag, yet it was clear from the opening volley at the initial City Council meeting that this was not the case, despite their expectations. Once it was clear the business types had not signed on to the Mayor’s plan, Council members starting asking about a “training wage” for younger workers. One of the labor reps from the Mayor’s Committee said that it was off the table altogether, since the object was how to raise the wage, not lower it. That should have ended it, but didn’t. Instead, the Mayor intervened, apparently to take the political heat, and stuck it in, explaining it was just a small issue, and consistent with state laws governing the handicapped. Then Council President Sally Clark intervened late in the game, proposing a further four month delay in implementing any wage increase. When she was asked why, she thought that the possibility of a ballot measure would “cause too much confusion” among businesses. Nobody could parse this logic, but it stayed in anyway.

The meeting of the Council when they passed it was instructive. Kshama attempted to introduce several amendments to bring the measure back to what was first proposed by $15 Now – all were defeated by 8-1. Nick Licata tried to strip out the training wage, that also failed, but by a closer margin, as did a similar measure to strip out the additional delay. The end result was to take a flawed measure, make it worse, while simultaneously showing the difference between a principled socialist, the openly pro-business faction, and the more liberal members, like Licata. But what was really exposed is the weakness of the liberals in the face of concerted business influence. The lesson here is clear for many activists and citizens, and will hopefully result in more Sawant-type candidates in 2015, when all nine seats are up for election or re-election. This is the first election since the passage of a measure breaking up the at-large system for all nine, with seven of those seats in individual districts, and two at-large.

Socialist Alternative/$15 Now: Many organizations participated in this struggle, on their own, and in various coalitions with others, and all are to be commended for their work. But even the President of the City Council, Sally Clark, acknowledged that without Kshama Sawant and $15 Now, there would have not been the momentum that induced the City Council to pass the legislation they did.

A crucial advantage for this campaign was having Kshama present on the inside of the Council and the IIAC to denounce the various stratagems and the players behind them as they arose, while $15 Now maintained a strong independent public campaign on the outside that allowed activists to keep up the pressure on the politicians.

During the course of the campaign to raise the minimum wage, SA and $15Now were offered mountains of advice and some criticism as well on how to conduct the struggle. They were too radical, too sectarian, too controlling, too uncompromising, too inexperienced, and not inclusive enough. They were told they should follow the time-honored method of forming the widest possible coalition with every labor and liberal leader that would sit with them.

But though they participated in the “$15 for Seattle” labor coalition, they insisted on running $15 Now as a campaign, and one under the leadership of SA and a few close allies. They welcomed other activists with similar views to work with them on a democratic basis, and they went out of their way to get the widest possible participation of ordinary workers, students, and others. But they would not surrender the campaign to leadership from outside forces, no matter what their supposed size and prestige. And they were right.

Had they done so, the inevitable result would have been that their efforts, rather than gaining strength from the participation of other forces, would have been diluted. The leadership of the campaign would have had to spend time in useless meetings with people and organizations who had nothing to offer but negotiations with a Mayor and City Council on which pro-business compromise they should make, as indeed other political forces did. That in turn would have hindered their efforts, both politically and organizationally to mobilize participation in the struggle from the people of Seattle in general, and low-wage workers and students in particular.

In addition, $15 Now was called upon repeatedly to be able to move quickly and flexibly, both strategically and tactically, as the business sector and its politicians tried repeatedly to sow general confusion, use their alliances with politicians to weaken the measure, and conduct a propaganda campaign in the local conservative media. On top of this, while devoting the majority of their efforts to the local struggle, they had to at the same time do whatever they could to encourage the attempts by activists in other cities inspired by $15 Now to build their own minimum wage campaigns across the country. Having a cohesive leadership at the head of the struggle made both of those challenges manageable.

Lessons for the future... This is not to say that every move they made worked out as they planned – such is the nature of a real struggle. The goal to put into motion 30 neighborhood groups never grew to that degree, and they repeatedly struggled with how to turn general support from activists into ongoing work.

An early effort at mobilizing people through the annual Martin Luther King Day march backfired, precisely because the $15 Now participation in the march was large and highly visible. Not realizing there had been repeated attempts to hijack the annual event by white activists in past years trying to use it to recruit support for their pet cause, they were unprepared by the level of hostility they met from some MLK organizers during and after the event.

The struggle is not entirely over. Too many corporate loopholes remain. A national business group of franchisers is threatening a lawsuit. The enforcement provisions and structure of the new wage law are not yet in place, and will require separate legislation. The Council can always decide at a future date to weaken the provisions still further. And a plethora of other issues await, from affordable housing, regressive taxation, budget cuts for social services, homelessness, mass transit cuts awaits. Meanwhile, the struggle in other cities is building. But an example of successful struggle has been shown, and a victory has been achieved. Let us hope we can learn its lessons.

Tom Barnard was a volunteer in the $15 Now campaign. He is a long-time activist on social change issues. He works as a policy analyst in Seattle.

Do we want education to be turned into a fiasco and a racket like health care?

The dismantling of public education is taking place. As a result, education is turning into one big fiasco and racket just like the for-profit health care system.

Most people don't have an inkling of who these charter school operators are or what is taking place because the public has no input into the decision-making process because it is the Wall Street crowd in control of local, state and federal politics.

New Orleans no longer has a public school system. How did this escape debate?

So, who are these charter school "operators?"

Check out how these charter school operators actually "operate:


It took a struggle to win public education; it will take a struggle to save public education from the Wall Street investors.

Do you want Bill Gates of Microsoft and the Wal-mart Walton Family dictating what your children will learn in school, and profit-making the purpose and aim of education?