What We Stand For

The Communist Party of Indiana CPUSA struggles for socialism: to better the lives of Indiana's working families, to protect and extend labor's ability to organize, for the needs of women, children, immigrants (documented and undocumented), the disabled, LGBT, and all people who strive for affordable quality health care, housing, and education. We stand against racism in all its forms. We stand for jobs for all. We stand for peace. We support all who struggle world wide for the dignity and self-determination of the majority of their nation's people and against imperialism, occupation, and exploitation for private profit.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Labor Day Parade in Princeton, IN

This is an invitation to all Single-Payer supporters to join with the California Nurses Association (CNA)/National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) in the 123rd Labor Day Parade in Princeton, Indiana. The parade is part of the Labor Day Celebrations which is one of the oldest in the Nation and is made up of thousands of working men and women and their families from
the Tri-State area. Join with us in exposing thousands to the concept of Single-Payer. If you have a blue Medicare for All t-shirt we encourage you to wear it. Any pro Single-Payer logo is welcome including signs and banners. We will have a trailer for those who need to ride.

Who: All Single-Payer Supporters

What: Labor Day Parade

When: September 7, 2009 Labor Day 9:00 A.M. *Central Standard Time*

Where: Princeton, Indiana which is 25 miles north of Evansville

This parade takes two hours to complete depending where you are in the parade line up. We are unit number 3 which means we will get through the parade route in less time.

The best way to get to the parade staging area is to go to the Gibson County Fairgrounds where the parade will end and park your car and then ride the bus to the staging area. I have attached a map of the Fairgrounds that shows the parking areas in black. You can access the parking areas from either entrance. Buses will run back and forth from these areas to the staging area
until the parade starts. After the parade the buses will again make runs to the down town staging area for those who park near the staging area. The main highway and streets in Princeton will close during the parade so driving into or out of the city is very difficult during the parade. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting there early. The ideal
time to catch the bus at the Fairgrounds is 7:30 A.M. Central Standard Time but they will continue to run up until starting time.

In addition to the map of the Fairgrounds I have attached the map of the parade route and the additional parade information. You can also access this information and much more at the web site www.labordayassoc.com. There are food booths at the Fairgrounds.

Web site directions: Go to www.labordayassoc.com and on the left side click on “Celebration 2009”. When this page opens up you will see Parade Map and Parade information. This is the same information that is attached. Check out the pictures of past parades. There are more old pictures being added each year.

Directions to the Gibson County Fairgrounds or parade staging area: Coming from the North on US 41 take the first Princeton exit on the ramp into Princeton. This is the second ramp which you will be going east into Princeton on Broadway/Indiana State Road 64. Do not confuse this with
Interstate 64.You will travel 1.25 miles and turn left on Embry Street. This street goes by both the entrances to the Fairgrounds (this is where you can catch the buses to the staging area). Or you can continue east on Broadway/64 for .4 miles to the staging area. You will go to the Courthouse Square and on the east side is Main Street. Turn right onto Main which is
the staging area. You can also get to the staging area by going to the second Princeton Exit off US 41 which is Main Street. You follow it into the staging area.

Coming from the South on US 41 you can take the first exit for Princeton which is Main Street. Follow it north until you arrive at the Parade staging area. To get to the Fairgrounds go the second Princeton exit and take the first ramp which you will be going East on Broadway/Indiana State Road 64.

Do not confuse this with Interstate 64. Go 1.25 miles to Embry Street and turn left. There is a sign for the Fairgrounds but it is easily overlooked. Embry will take you by both entrances to the Fairgrounds.

You can also come into Princeton from the East on Indiana State Road 64. Do not confuse this with Interstate 64. Coming from the North you can take Indiana State Road 57 South or 231 South. Both of these cross 64. Turn right on to 64 and go west until you come to Princeton. The second stop light is Main Street turn left and you will be in the Parade staging area. If you are
going to the Fairgrounds continue on to Embry Street and turn right and follow the street to the entrances to the grounds.

If you have any questions feel free to call me at 812-215-9848 or email me at gfritz@calnurses.org.

See Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan and Citizens United for Universal Health Care/HCHP Northeast Chapter for more information.

See the Labor Day Association for more parade information.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Top Five Health Care Reform Lies—and How to Fight Back

| PA Editors Blog | August 12, 2009

Lie #1: President Obama wants to euthanize your grandma!!!

The truth: These accusations—of "death panels" and forced euthanasia—are, of course, flatly untrue. As an article from the Associated Press puts it: "No 'death panel' in health care bill." What's the real deal? Reform legislation includes a provision, supported by the AARP, to offer senior citizens access to a professional medical counselor who will provide them with information on preparing a living will and other issues facing older Americans.

Lie #2: Democrats are going to outlaw private insurance and force you into a government plan!!!

The truth: With reform, choices will increase, not decrease. Obama's reform plans will create a health insurance exchange, a one-stop shopping marketplace for affordable, high-quality insurance options. Included in the exchange is the public health insurance option — a nationwide plan with a broad network of providers — that will operate alongside private insurance companies, injecting competition into the market to drive quality up and costs down.

If you're happy with your coverage and doctors, you can keep them. But the new public plan will expand choices to millions of businesses or individuals who choose to opt into it, including many who simply can't afford health care now.

Lie #3: President Obama wants to implement Soviet-style rationing!!!

The truth: Health care reform will expand access to high-quality health insurance, and give individuals, families, and businesses more choices for coverage. Right now, big corporations decide whether to give you coverage, what doctors you get to see, and whether a particular procedure or medicine is covered—that is rationed care. And a big part of reform is to stop that.

Health care reform will do away with some of the most nefarious aspects of this rationing: discrimination for pre-existing conditions, insurers that cancel coverage when you get sick, gender discrimination, and lifetime and yearly limits on coverage. And outside of that, as noted above, reform will increase insurance options, not force anyone into a rationed situation.

Lie #4: Obama is secretly plotting to cut senior citizens' Medicare benefits!!!

The truth: Health care reform plans will not reduce Medicare benefits. Reform includes savings from Medicare that are unrelated to patient care — in fact, the savings comes from cutting billions of dollars in overpayments to insurance companies and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.

Lie #5: Obama's health care plan will bankrupt America!!!

The truth: We need health care reform now in order to prevent bankruptcy — to control spiraling costs that affect individuals, families, small businesses, and the American economy.

Right now, we spend more than $2 trillion dollars a year on health care. The average family premium is projected to rise to over $22,000 in the next decade — and each year, nearly a million people face bankruptcy because of medical expenses. Reform, with an affordable, high-quality public option that can spur competition, is necessary to bring down skyrocketing costs. Also, President Obama's reform plans would be fully paid for over 10 years and not add a penny to the deficit.

We're closer to real health care reform than we've ever been—and the next few weeks will decide whether it happens. We need to make sure the truth about health care reform is spread far and wide to combat right wing lies.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Union families show anti-Obama rally 'what real Americans want'

Paul Kaczocha | People's Weekly World | August 6, 2009

WAKARUSA, Ind. – In just a few hours on Aug. 5 the Steelworkers Union organized a bus load and several cars from Gary, Ind., to take the two hour trip to this small sleepy town near Elkhart and in the middle of the Amish area also known for RV and trailer construction.

More than 1,200 people from around the area gathered to support President Barack Obama and health care reform amongst other issues.

In contrast, The Young Republicans organized a smaller effort to protest Obama and health care reform efforts.

Earlier in the week many of these same protesters tried to disrupt a forum on health care with Congressman Pete Visclosky, sponsored by the Democratic Alliance group in Chesterton, Ind. The protesters are mounting “recess rallies” nationwide targeting Democrats and the president.

Obama spoke at the bankrupt and recently-purchased Monaco Coach RV manufacturer while supporters and protesters rallied outside. Unemployment in the area is nearly 20 percent in the state where it has reached 11 percent. Obama announced a $39 million stimulus grant to the company that purchased Monaco to make 400 electric trucks.

Ula Woods a school bus driver from Gary said she came to the rally, “to support Obama and his health care plans.” JC, also of Gary and a SEIU member and custodian, said he came “for health care reform and jobs. I am laid off with 59 others.”

Helen Johnson of South Bend, Ind. said “She came to show Obama that we support his efforts to get health care for all the people that don’t have it.”

Mike Olszanski, a retired steelworker from LaPorte, who was standing amongst the anti-Obama protesters with his sign calling for a single payer solution for health care.

“I’m for socialized medicine, and these people are saying that they don’t want the government to do anything with health care. I’m glad I came to show these young Republicans what real Americans want,” he said.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Portuguese Trade Union Job Safety and Health Seminar Sparks Discussions and Demands

Mike Tolochko | PA Editors Blog | July 30, 2009

Dr. Mariana Alves Pereira from the University of Lusofona located in Lisbon, Portugal sent a strong message to over 75 transportation union leaders that Vibration Acoustical Disease VAD is a problem that requires their immediate attention. She presented study results from over 20 years of research that impressed Seminar participants. This is a relatively new area of research.

This Seminar, organized by the National Federation of Transport and Communication Unions FECTRANS, was led by its coordinator, Amavel Alves. FECTRANS represents subway [metro], railway, bus and truck drivers. Alves opened the Seminar by stating the need for safe and healthier conditions; the need for more studies and research as part of the European Campaign for a safer transportation system.

The main topics of the Seminar, a Seminar that was in part supported by the European Union organizations in charge of transportation, focused on worker fatigue and ergonomics, i.e., musculo-skeletel diseases.

Pereira spoke at length about the growing dangers of Vibro Acoustic Diseases stemming from Low Frequency Noise. She said that many neurological problems which heretofore have been left undiagnosed, now can be labeled and treated.

Manuela Calado an official with the Portuguese government, and related to the European National Agency, reported on efforts by the government to protect workers. But, she said that, it would take the pressure of the trade unions, like FECTRANS, to get these government agencies to do the right thing.

Dr. Frank Goldsmith, former director of Occupational Health for Local 100, Transport Workers Union from New York City, reported on the study of the Health Status of Urban Mass Transit Workers that was conducted a few years ago by Dr. Steven Markowitz of Queens College, City University of New York. The study covered all 60 job titles of the 38,000 bus and subway transit workers employed by the New York City Transit authority.

That groundbreaking report was the first stage of an in-depth study that will be continued in the near future. Problems such as steel dust in the subways, job stress and ergonomic issues for bus operators, and general issues of occupational exposure to carcinogens and respiratory problems were described.

Goldsmith represents the World Federation of Trade Unions at the United Nations.

In an extensive discussion following these reports, the Portuguese union leaders from all part of Portugal, including Lisbon and Porto from the north, reported on their working conditions and the need for continued strong trade union support and demands at the appropriate government agencies. Bus operators, lorry drivers [over the road truck drivers] and subway workers gave example after example of their working conditions and their strategies to protect their members.

Many of them agreed that vibration and noise issues are present in their places of work. The issue of vibration acoustic disease they said was a new one for them, but they were pleased that it was reported and looked forward to taking the appropriate actions.


Anabela Vogado, the occupational health specialist for FECTRANS, in the afternoon session, reported extensively about the increasing pressure to work longer and longer hours per day and week. This has made worker fatigue a major labor issue. She cited European directives in describing the need for trade union actions.

Vogado's report sparked lengthy comments from many of the Seminar participants.

Jose Manuel Oliveria, President of the Railway workers Union [SNTSF] voiced strong support for all the reports and urged quick action.

At the close of the Seminar Alves, himself a subway train operator said that these reports and comments would NOT be put on the shelf. They will be used to develop plans to be brought to the proper officials for action.

The conference was simultaneously translated into both Portuguese and English.

He said that in the current period of economic and financial crisis, all of these issues are all the more important to address. Sitting back and doing nothing is NOT an option.

National Health in Portugal: Specialty Care

Mike Tolochko | PA Editors Blog | July 26, 2009

Portuguese National Health Service Remains Strong

Based on the post Dictatorship Constitution, the Portuguese National Health Service was established in 1979. Over 90% of the population uses its system of public hospitals and salaried physicians. This needs to be said, because recently, the directives of the European Union, followed too closely by the governing Socialist Party, has allowed some of the funding for the NHS to deteriorate. This opened the door to the insurance monopolies.

This has resulted in the selling of private insurance policies to some people. On the other hand recent attempts to regionalize the NHS were soundly defeated. The struggle continues.

Abortion Rights

Under the NHS, and since a couple of years ago, there are full abortion rights up to 10 to 14 weeks. This being a Catholic country, these rights are all the more significant. It took mass pressure to uphold the rights of women in this regard. In Spain, there are full abortion rights for over 20 years…there the law allows abortions up to 12 weeks.

Personal Medical Records on Data Base

There is a national database of individual medical records so that everyone in the system can have their records pulled up when traveling to any part of the country. This is still a dream on the U.S.

When traveling out of the county and when health services are needed, the cost of the services are fully reimbursed upon return.


Since 1979, again the new Constitution, organ transplants are a common medical procedure. Under the law, in accidents and similar occurrences, all organs are made available. Only, if people specifically reject this possibility will the organs not be removed. That is the kind of default system that works.


There is a National Registry of Organs.

As the U.S. goes through its latest struggle to beat off the insurance carriers, medical device, supplies and equipment companies; drug companies and the banks; here in Portugal the people enjoy full health care rights.

Maybe the U.S. needs a constitutional Amendment for the right to health care like what was needed for other crisis and important economic and social issues?

Coalition Politics Portuguese Style: A Case in Point

Mike Tolochko | PA Editors Blog | July 26, 2009

As most people know, the Portuguese Communist Party is a strong and powerful Marxist – Leninist Party. It has historically taken very robust positions on all of the issues of the international working class movement.

What is not known is that it has an equally aggressive mass electoral policy.

Peniche, For Example

In an earlier Blog, I referred to the United Democratic Coalition –CDU where the PCP along with the Greens and many independent work together. In these coalitions, the final outcomes in terms of leadership, when they win, are not always predetermined.

For example, in the historic town of Peniche with a population of 16,000 people, the Socialist Party has held the Mayor position for decades. Peniche is where the fascist/dictatorship of Salazar jailed members of the Communist Party and others. [It is the 35 anniversary of April 25, 1974 when the dictatorship was overthrown; and 75 years since that prison was built.]


Four years ago, the CDU for that town put forward candidates for the:

Town Council
Municipal Assembly/Parliament
Local Boroughs

The CDU was and is made up of the CPC, the Greens and many independents. They all agreed, however, to the Platform of the CPC. The program had simple things like: street lights; taking care of green and garden areas; playgrounds; social support systems and local school development.

The Town Council has 11 members and the CDU won over 50% of the votes. They also won the Assembly and most of the boroughs.

This made Peniche a "Communist Town." As reported earlier, there are 308 towns in Portugal and the PCP heads up 33 of them.

The different thing about Peniche is that the Mayor of the town is not a member of the PCP; which is fine with everyone. Of course, he ran on the PCP platform.
Now that is non-sectarianism at its best.

Note: In Portugal, there are about 60,000 members of the PCP with about one-third being elected to government positions, or about 20,000 PCP serving the public.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Portuguese Transportation Union Leader: Main challenges

Mike Tolochko | PA Editors Blog | July 27, 2009

Privatization Struggle Highlights Union Focus

Amavel Alves is the co-ordinator of National Federation of Transport and Communication Unions [FECTRANS.] He comes from the subway Metro workers union where he was a train operator/an engineer.

He said that main goal of the labor federation over the past few years was to better focus its work under one umbrella: Industrially and Geographically. He said that FECTRANS is the largest federation of its kind; there is another one, which is far smaller. It is affiliated with the CGTP the National Federation in Portugal.

International Solidarity

While FECTRANS is not officially affiliated with any of the two international federations it works strongly on international labor solidarity. He said that FECTRANS believes in class-oriented trade unionism, "Without a Shadow of a Doubt." He said that the union works with the Trade Union International - TUI associated with the World Federation of Trade Unions.

Three Main Challenges

Alves said that there are three main challenges before the union:

A. Fighting Against the Wage of Privatization. We are struggling to keep our work in the public domain. He said that the current financial and economic crisis caught the privateers "red-handed." "They are a bit more cautious these days." He said that unemployment in Portugal is at it's highest since the end of the dictatorship: 1974.

B. Fighting Against Recent Labor Codes. The labor movement is struggling against the anti-union direction of the European Union and also the current Portuguese government.

C. Struggling to Maintain and Improve Working Conditions. The struggle against increasing working hours is crucial, he reported. Also, casual labor is causing troubles. Truck/lorry drivers are facing increasing driving hours.

More to come; stay tuned

Portugal Takes its Ballots and Street Heat Seriously

Mike Tolochko | PA Editors Blog | July 24, 2009

In Portugal: 35 Years Since the Revolution:

Traveling to Portugal and of course Lisbon, or any place that you're not familiar with, you always buy a guide to help to focus your limited time. The "Green Guide" by Michelin gives a good description of Portugal and even mentions the dictatorship of Salazar. You learn that it ended in April, 1974. Foders guide marks that date, but little more.

The Lonely Planet guide is far more political, it is published in England. The town of Peniche was highlighted as a good place to visit. Stating that it was the location of one of Salazar's main prisons.

But, what is missing for more politically minded travelers is that Peniche, the Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo, of its time, and after having Socialist mayor's for many years, elected a Communist Party leader as its Mayor three years ago. They could have also said that this wasn't a fluke. Of the 308 municipalities in Portugal, 33 have Communist Party or over 10%.

Thirty-five years ago, April 25, 1974, the dictatorship, lead by Salazar, came an end. The military and peoples' movement brought democracy to the Portuguese people and ever since the Portuguese Communist Party [PCP] has been in the leadership of keeping the promise of democracy, economic and social rights; and peace a reality for workers' and their families.

Year 2009 Balloting/Elections

In the year 2009, the PCP has won important victories in the European Parliamentary elections; and, is looking forward to the elections for national government offices and municipalities in September and October of 2009. After decades of right wing and dictatorships, they take democracy seriously in Portugal.

While the wave of ultra right wing parties had some success in the large European countries; the Communist Parties of Greece and Portugal out paced them. They were not rubbed out completely, but they did not do very well.

At the same time, the Party leads mass demonstrations throughout the country to make it possible for the thoughts and ideas of workers and communities have a voice. As is explained, every form of expression is needed to pressure the government and the employers.


In the 2009 EU Parliamentary elections, the PCP polled 10.67% of the vote, which was higher than achieve in the previous similar election in 2005, or 9.1%. The most recent national elections vote, 2005, of the PCP was 7.8%; which was an increase from the 7.0% four years earlier. Municipal elections found the PCP candidates doing even better in 2005 than in the previous local elections where they were voted into 30 municipalities.

In the EU Parliament and the Portuguese Parliament the PCP representation stayed the same.

Street Heat

Keeping the streets hot with demonstration is a hallmark of the PCP. On May 13, 2009, over 250 trade unionists hit the streets to protest the new Labor Code by the National government. On April 25 the 35th Anniversary of the Revolution, over 50,000 marched. On May 1st, MAY DAY, Lisbon had a demonstration of over 250,000 with demonstrations in 55 other Portuguese cities.

And, then on May 25, a coalition of political parties demonstrated for peoples' rights; about 85,000 strong.

Elections in September

National elections will take place on September 27 this year; with municipal elections two weeks later. The Party hopes to improve upon its 7.8% of four years ago; and improve on its 33 cities with Communists in the municipal elections

The Annual Festival of the PCP will precede these national and local elections, September 3-5, 2009. Each year, the Party attracts over 550,000 people. This festival has the traditional foods and speeches and debates.

The main issues have been:

The directives coming from the European unions of increased privatization; cutbacks on pensions and health benefits; increasing the age to retire and other anti-working class and anti women issues; these demonstrations and elections will keep worker and their families alert to the dangers ahead.

They will also, as reported, voice solidarity with trade unions and workers from other EU countries to stop the assault.

More to come; stay tuned!!!

For a relatively small country with 11 million people and 1 million in Lisbon proper [2.3 great Lisbon] this population is ready to fight. [Sweden has 3 million people.]

Portuguese Railway Workers in Major Struggles Against Privatization

Mike Tolochko | PA Editors Blog | July 25, 2009
Railways in Portugal/European Union: The Union Perspective Against Privatization

As most U. S. railway travelers who look forward to rail travel in Europe and parts of Asia know, similar experiences in the U.S. are rare. The "fast trains" of France, the TGV, are reaching ever corner of the European Union countries. This is both good news and bad news.

Jose Manuel Oliveira, President of the Railway Workers Union [SNTSF], reports this mixed experience.

On the positive side, there are plans to link Lisbon in two ways to the rest of Europe. The "fast train" link would be to France and up to Paris; and the other would be a direct link to Madrid, Spain. These are fully supported by the SNTSF. Another project which does not have their support is to put a similar "fast train" on the cost of Portugal, linking Porto to Lisbon and then South. Oliveira said that the current travel time for that route is already quite short; so the use of valuable resources to reconstruct that line would be a mistake.

There is a problem with the rail gauge between Portugal and the rest of Europe. The Portuguese gauge is narrower; so, it would have to be rebuilt in conformance with the rest of Europe.

The main problem part of these projects is what has not been determined: if these expansion projects would be: fully public; joint ventures with other governments such as the Spanish; or would they be fully private. Regardless of who runs the lines, public money would be main, if not only, financing of the expansion.

After the Dictatorship

The Portuguese system, called the CP system, since the end of the dictatorship in 1974, has been completely public. In a note, Oliveira said that since that same date, all the buses were also made fully public. That meant that there is a fully articulated system between the public trains and buses that needs to be maintained as we go forward, he said.

But, over the past years the public bus lines have been severely cut to the rural areas. This has forced people to buy cars. This has come as a result of EU directives and the government of Portugal going along. It is against all environmental and climate change imperatives.

Suburban train lines are under attack. The new train between Lisbon and the town of Setubal was built with only public moneys but it was turned over to a private company for its running. And, the practices of those running that suburban line are to strongly discourage those workers from joining the union. Security cameras document the activities of the workers and especially if these workers are being engaged by the union.

Wage Growth

From 1993 to the present time the union has been able to win 23 wage increases for the workers; but at the same time the managerial personnel's salaries were increased by 120%.


Olivier said that his work in the World Federation of Trade Union's Trade Union's, Trade Union International [TUI] for the International of Rail and Transport unions is essential to their work. He is the President of that TUI and the General Secretary is from Brazil. With powerful political organizations such as the European Union making decisions that directly affect workers lives, the WFTU-TUI on this issue can help deter those most dangerous attacks on workers rights and solidarity. Of course, the EU is just a part of the G8's efforts to maintain the goals of the neo-liberal agenda.

This TUI is an independent formation whose members come from the WFTU and the more centrist International Trade Union Confederation ITUC.

The Greens and Portuguese Communist Party Combine in National Elections; A Word On Health and Labor Rights

Mike Tolochko | PA Editors Blog | July/August 2009 | Portugal
Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Greens and the Portuguese Communist Party United in Elections: A Word About National Health &
Workers Rights: The 1975 Constitution

In the last national elections, the Portuguese Communist Party and the Portuguese Green Party coalitioned under the banner of the CDU: The United Democratic Coalition. In those elections, 4 years ago the CDU elected 15 for the national parliament. The Parliament has a total of 230. The 15 number is determined by the voting strength at the polls and the use of proportional representation. Within the CDU, the PCP won 13 and the Greens 2 to the Parliament.
In the upcoming September 27th elections the CDU will again be the coalition to run. This very different from the actions of the Green Party of Germany and France which acts as a front for corporate interests and opposes labor unions and peoples' economic and social rights.

A Word About Health and Workers' Rights/Vacations

The peoples' victory over the Dictatorship in April 25, 1974 brought about the demand for a new constitution. The dictatorship's constitution was completely discarded and for over a year the peoples' movements discussed and debated a new one. On April 2, 1976 a new Constitution was made legal.

In that Constitution a new set of labor and workers rights were emblazoned in print and law. More on that soon.

In the field of health rights for the people, the Constitution made health care a legal right for all Portuguese. This would cover both the private and public sectors. However, about 30 years later, in 2004, changes started creeping into the system stemming from the lessoning of public financing support for the national health care systems of public hospitals and salaried physicians. This has cleared the way for private insurance companies to offer policies to fill the gaps. Sound familiar? More on this soon.

Under current law, every worker receives 22 days of vacation a year. Under the labor code there is a possibility of adding 3 days.

A Travel Note:

In traveling by car from Lisbon to the southeast areas, you travel over a relatively new bridge that bears a resemblance to the San Francisco Bay Bridge. In fact, with the small streetcars, which resemble the cable cars of the San Francisco in the historic Alfama District; and, the common disasters of earthquakes and fire, in Lisbon in the mid-1770s and in San Francisco in 1906….the comparison are very significant.

That bridge was finished during the Dictatorship in the mid-1960s and it was named the Salazar Bridge. After the revolution, the bridge is now named, the April 25th Bridge.

Stay tuned………..

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The invisible program

New York Times
Paul Krugman
August 1, 2009, 12:05 pm

Matthew Yglesias leads us to a commenter at Marginal Revolution who looks at life expectancy and concludes that “semi-socialized medicine” is good for the young but bad for the old. Tyler Cowen made the same argument in the Times a while back:

On average, European systems are relatively good for the young, who are generally healthy and need treatment for obvious accidents and emergencies, with transparent remedies. European systems are less effective for the elderly, the primary demanders of discretionary medical benefits.

As Yglesias points out, such arguments weirdly miss the fact that older Americans are covered by Medicare. If you say that American health care works well for the elderly, then the part of our system you’re praising is the “socialized” part.

This is part of a broader phenomenon. Everyone’s favorite story about the evils of socialized medicine is the fact that Canadians wait longer for hip replacements. But who pays for hip replacements in the United States? Medicare, in most cases.

So we make fun of people who want to keep the government’s hands off Medicare. But Medicare blindness isn’t just a problem for the rubes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

AFL-CIO NOW BLOG | AFL-CIO Executive Council Calls for Round 2 of Economic Recovery

The nation’s working families and the economy desperately need a second installment on the Obama administration’s economic recovery plan. That plan, says the AFL-CIO Executive Council,

must focus like a laser beam on job creation.

Along with approving an economic policy statement outlining the urgent need for more economic recovery initiatives, the council, convening for a one-day meeting yesterday in Washington, D.C., also welcomed two new members, Letter Carriers (NALC) President Fredric Rolando and AFGE Vice President Rogelio Flores.

The council honored former council members William Young, who recently retired as NALC president, and AFGE Vice President Andrea Brooks, who died in April. To help support the work of the Alliance for Retired Americans, the council proposed the creation of the Preserving Union Values Charitable Foundation.

Although the first round of economic stimulus has made huge strides is shoring up our economy, the council pointed out in its statement that the Bush administration’s economic legacy created such “economic devastation—in finance, housing and jobs,” that

The challenge of fixing this economic mess is enormous—and urgent. Creating good jobs that cannot be outsourced is central to the solution.

Unemployment is expected to hit 10 percent later this year and remain high in 2010. So far 6.6 million jobs have disappeared since the beginning of the recession in 2007, including 1.9 million manufacturing jobs and 1.3 million construction jobs. For those with jobs, wages are stagnant or shrinking and many workers face forced furloughs. As the council statement says:

It is crystal clear that urgent action from the federal government is needed to boost economic growth and jobs, and invest in America’s future.

Among other investments, a second recovery plan should:

Extend unemployment benefits immediately, by at least seven weeks, to help the hundreds of thousands of workers who would otherwise exhaust their benefits in the near term.
Increase food stamp spending as needed to help families cope with the downturn.
Increase aid to state and local governments.
Bolster the financial stability of independent government agencies such as the U.S. Postal Service.
Increase spending for needed infrastructure and clean energy projects, even for those projects with a time horizon longer than two years.
Click here to read the full statement.

New council member Rolando served as the union’s executive vice president before taking over from Young, who retired earlier this month. In its statement honoring Young’s service, the council says Young, who became NALC president in 2002, took the reins at a time when

the NALC—and the entire union movement—were fighting hard to resist a viciously anti-union White House and Congress….Young is widely recognized as a leader not only of the NALC but of the entire union movement.

Flores joined AFGE in 1968 and held various local and district offices until he was elected as a national vice president in 1996. He takes over the council seat that Brooks occupied from 2005 until her death in April.

Brooks began her union career at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, rising through the ranks of AFGE while working at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She served for 10 years as president of AFGE Local 490 at the Veterans Affairs regional office in Los Angeles; She was also vice president of the California Labor Federation.

In 2000, she was elected as AFGE’s vice president for women and fair practices in 2000. In its statement, the council says:

Brooks’ name became a synonym for the good causes she believed in and fought for: civil rights, human rights, women’s rights. She declared that she wanted to help mobilize a civil rights movement of every race, culture, orientation and gender identity. She did exactly that…we honor the legacy of more justice and fairness and equality she left behind for us.

In the statement proposing the new charitable foundation, the council says many union workers are concerned that their children and grandchildren may not be able to experience and “cherish the richness of a life of involvement with the labor movement.”

The Preserving Union Values Charitable Foundation would allow active and retired union members to make tax-exempt contributions for

the purpose of preserving and carrying forward the proud heritage of the union movement. We believe many people associated with the labor movement would choose to leave a legacy in this way if given the opportunity….The proposed charitable foundation would ensure that current and future generations of Americans have an opportunity to benefit from the values that made the labor movement a defining force in American history.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has agreed to head the proposed foundation following his upcoming retirement. Funds raised would be split between the National Labor College (NLC) and the Alliance, which, says the council statement, “has consistently excelled with the quality and effectiveness of its field work.”

Afghanistan: Another Untold Story

Afghanistan: Another Untold Story
By Michael Parenti

December 05, 2008 "Information Clearinghouse" -- Barack Obama is on record as advocating a military escalation in Afghanistan. Before sinking any deeper into that quagmire, we might do well to learn something about recent Afghan history and the role played by the United States.

Less than a month after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, US leaders began an all-out aerial assault upon Afghanistan, the country purportedly harboring Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist organization. More than twenty years earlier, in 1980, the United States intervened to stop a Soviet “invasion” of that country. Even some leading progressive writers, who normally take a more critical view of US policy abroad, treated the US intervention against the Soviet-supported government as “a good thing.” The actual story is not such a good thing.

Some Real History

Since feudal times the landholding system in Afghanistan had remained unchanged, with more than 75 percent of the land owned by big landlords who comprised only 3 percent of the rural population. In the mid-1960s, democratic revolutionary elements coalesced to form the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In 1973, the king was deposed, but the government that replaced him proved to be autocratic, corrupt, and unpopular. It in turn was forced out in 1978 after a massive demonstration in front of the presidential palace, and after the army intervened on the side of the demonstrators.

The military officers who took charge invited the PDP to form a new government under the leadership of Noor Mohammed Taraki, a poet and novelist. This is how a Marxist-led coalition of national democratic forces came into office. “It was a totally indigenous happening. Not even the CIA blamed the USSR for it,” writes John Ryan, a retired professor at the University of Winnipeg, who was conducting an agricultural research project in Afghanistan at about that time.
The Taraki government proceeded to legalize labor unions, and set up a minimum wage, a progressive income tax, a literacy campaign, and programs that gave ordinary people greater access to health care, housing, and public sanitation. Fledgling peasant cooperatives were started and price reductions on some key foods were imposed.

The government also continued a campaign begun by the king to emancipate women from their age-old tribal bondage. It provided public education for girls and for the children of various tribes.

A report in the San Francisco Chronicle (17 November 2001) noted that under the Taraki regime Kabul had been “a cosmopolitan city. Artists and hippies flocked to the capital. Women studied agriculture, engineering and business at the city’s university. Afghan women held government jobs—-in the 1980s, there were seven female members of parliament. Women drove cars, traveled and went on dates. Fifty percent of university students were women.”

The Taraki government moved to eradicate the cultivation of opium poppy. Until then Afghanistan had been producing more than 70 percent of the opium needed for the world’s heroin supply. The government also abolished all debts owed by farmers, and began developing a major land reform program. Ryan believes that it was a “genuinely popular government and people looked forward to the future with great hope.”

But serious opposition arose from several quarters. The feudal landlords opposed the land reform program that infringed on their holdings. And tribesmen and fundamentalist mullahs vehemently opposed the government’s dedication to gender equality and the education of women and children.

Because of its egalitarian and collectivist economic policies the Taraki government also incurred the opposition of the US national security state. Almost immediately after the PDP coalition came to power, the CIA, assisted by Saudi and Pakistani military, launched a large scale intervention into Afghanistan on the side of the ousted feudal lords, reactionary tribal chieftains, mullahs, and opium traffickers.

A top official within the Taraki government was Hafizulla Amin, believed by many to have been recruited by the CIA during the several years he spent in the United States as a student. In September 1979, Amin seized state power in an armed coup. He executed Taraki, halted the reforms, and murdered, jailed, or exiled thousands of Taraki supporters as he moved toward establishing a fundamentalist Islamic state. But within two months, he was overthrown by PDP remnants including elements within the military.

It should be noted that all this happened before the Soviet military intervention. National security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski publicly admitted--months before Soviet troops entered the country--that the Carter administration was providing huge sums to Muslim extremists to subvert the reformist government. Part of that effort involved brutal attacks by the CIA-backed mujahideen against schools and teachers in rural areas.

In late 1979, the seriously besieged PDP government asked Moscow to send a contingent of troops to help ward off the mujahideen (Islamic guerrilla fighters) and foreign mercenaries, all recruited, financed, and well-armed by the CIA. The Soviets already had been sending aid for projects in mining, education, agriculture, and public health. Deploying troops represented a commitment of a more serious and politically dangerous sort. It took repeated requests from Kabul before Moscow agreed to intervene militarily.

Jihad and Taliban, CIA Style

The Soviet intervention was a golden opportunity for the CIA to transform the tribal resistance into a holy war, an Islamic jihad to expel the godless communists from Afghanistan. Over the years the United States and Saudi Arabia expended about $40 billion on the war in Afghanistan. The CIA and its allies recruited, supplied, and trained almost 100,000 radical mujahideen from forty Muslim countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, and Afghanistan itself. Among those who answered the call was Saudi-born millionaire right-winger Osama bin Laden and his cohorts.

After a long and unsuccessful war, the Soviets evacuated the country in February 1989. It is generally thought that the PDP Marxist government collapsed immediately after the Soviet departure. Actually, it retained enough popular support to fight on for another three years, outlasting the Soviet Union itself by a year.

Upon taking over Afghanistan, the mujahideen fell to fighting among themselves. They ravaged the cities, terrorized civilian populations, looted, staged mass executions, closed schools, raped thousands of women and girls, and reduced half of Kabul to rubble. In 2001 Amnesty International reported that the mujahideen used sexual assault as “a method of intimidating vanquished populations and rewarding soldiers.’”

Ruling the country gangster-style and looking for lucrative sources of income, the tribes ordered farmers to plant opium poppy. The Pakistani ISI, a close junior partner to the CIA, set up hundreds of heroin laboratories across Afghanistan. Within two years of the CIA’s arrival, the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland became the biggest producer of heroin in the world.

Largely created and funded by the CIA, the mujahideen mercenaries now took on a life of their own. Hundreds of them returned home to Algeria, Chechnya, Kosovo, and Kashmir to carry on terrorist attacks in Allah’s name against the purveyors of secular “corruption.”

In Afghanistan itself, by 1995 an extremist strain of Sunni Islam called the Taliban---heavily funded and advised by the ISI and the CIA and with the support of Islamic political parties in Pakistan---fought its way to power, taking over most of the country, luring many tribal chiefs into its fold with threats and bribes.

The Taliban promised to end the factional fighting and banditry that was the mujahideen trademark. Suspected murderers and spies were executed monthly in the sports stadium, and those accused of thievery had the offending hand sliced off. The Taliban condemned forms of “immorality” that included premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality. They also outlawed all music, theater, libraries, literature, secular education, and much scientific research.

The Taliban unleashed a religious reign of terror, imposing an even stricter interpretation of Muslim law than used by most of the Kabul clergy. All men were required to wear untrimmed beards and women had to wear the burqa which covered them from head to toe, including their faces. Persons who were slow to comply were dealt swift and severe punishment by the Ministry of Virtue. A woman who fled an abusive home or charged spousal abuse would herself be severely whipped by the theocratic authorities. Women were outlawed from social life, deprived of most forms of medical care, barred from all levels of education, and any opportunity to work outside the home. Women who were deemed “immoral” were stoned to death or buried alive.

None of this was of much concern to leaders in Washington who got along famously with the Taliban. As recently as 1999, the US government was paying the entire annual salary of every single Taliban government official. Not until October 2001, when President George W. Bush had to rally public opinion behind his bombing campaign in Afghanistan did he denounce the Taliban’s oppression of women. His wife, Laura Bush, emerged overnight as a full-blown feminist to deliver a public address detailing some of the abuses committed against Afghan women.

If anything positive can be said about the Taliban, it is that they did put a stop to much of the looting, raping, and random killings that the mujahideen had practiced on a regular basis. In 2000 Taliban authorities also eradicated the cultivation of opium poppy throughout the areas under their control, an effort judged by the United Nations International Drug Control Program to have been nearly totally successful. With the Taliban overthrown and a Western-selected mujahideen government reinstalled in Kabul by December 2001, opium poppy production in Afghanistan increased dramatically.

The years of war that have followed have taken tens of thousands of Afghani lives. Along with those killed by Cruise missiles, Stealth bombers, Tomahawks, daisy cutters, and land mines are those who continue to die of hunger, cold, lack of shelter, and lack of water.

The Holy Crusade for Oil and Gas

While claiming to be fighting terrorism, US leaders have found other compelling but less advertised reasons for plunging deeper into Afghanistan. The Central Asian region is rich in oil and gas reserves. A decade before 9/11, Time magazine (18 March 1991) reported that US policy elites were contemplating a military presence in Central Asia. The discovery of vast oil and gas reserves in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan provided the lure, while the dissolution of the USSR removed the one major barrier against pursuing an aggressive interventionist policy in that part of the world.

US oil companies acquired the rights to some 75 percent of these new reserves. A major problem was how to transport the oil and gas from the landlocked region. US officials opposed using the Russian pipeline or the most direct route across Iran to the Persian Gulf. Instead, they and the corporate oil contractors explored a number of alternative pipeline routes, across Azerbaijan and Turkey to the Mediterranean or across China to the Pacific.

The route favored by Unocal, a US based oil company, crossed Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. The intensive negotiations that Unocal entered into with the Taliban regime remained unresolved by 1998, as an Argentine company placed a competing bid for the pipeline. Bush’s war against the Taliban rekindled UNOCAL’s hopes for getting a major piece of the action.

Interestingly enough, neither the Clinton nor Bush administrations ever placed Afghanistan on the official State Department list of states charged with sponsoring terrorism, despite the acknowledged presence of Osama bin Laden as a guest of the Taliban government. Such a “rogue state” designation would have made it impossible for a US oil or construction company to enter an agreement with Kabul for a pipeline to the Central Asian oil and gas fields.

In sum, well in advance of the 9/11 attacks the US government had made preparations to move against the Taliban and create a compliant regime in Kabul and a direct US military presence in Central Asia. The 9/11 attacks provided the perfect impetus, stampeding US public opinion and reluctant allies into supporting military intervention.

One might agree with John Ryan who argued that if Washington had left the Marxist Taraki government alone back in 1979, “there would have been no army of mujahideen, no Soviet intervention, no war that destroyed Afghanistan, no Osama bin Laden, and no September 11 tragedy.” But it would be asking too much for Washington to leave unmolested a progressive leftist government that was organizing the social capital around collective public needs rather than private accumulation.

US intervention in Afghanistan has proven not much different from US intervention in Cambodia, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, and elsewhere. It had the same intent of preventing egalitarian social change, and the same effect of overthrowing an economically reformist government. In all these instances, the intervention brought retrograde elements into ascendance, left the economy in ruins, and pitilessly laid waste to many innocent lives.

The war against Afghanistan, a battered impoverished country, continues to be portrayed in US official circles as a gallant crusade against terrorism. If it ever was that, it also has been a means to other things: destroying a leftist revolutionary social order, gaining profitable control of one of the last vast untapped reserves of the earth’s dwindling fossil fuel supply, and planting US bases and US military power into still another region of the world.

In the face of all this Obama’s call for “change” rings hollow.

Michael Parenti’s recent books are Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader and the forthcoming God and His Demons. For further information, visit www.michaelparenti.org.

This article also available on Michael Parenti's web site here.


Subject: 103+ million minorities suffer disparities in health care system

More struggle is necessary, lets keep it growing! Health Care Reform Now!

The Wilmington Journal
Originally posted 7/28/2009

A newly released report this week by progressive advocates for health care reform cites higher infant mortality rates, lower quality of care, and shorter life expectancies for blacks and other communities of color as just some of the reasons why they fully support President Obama's public option proposal to improve health care, and drive down costs, and provide greater access overall.

The study comes as the Senate Health committee chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) passed a $600 billion health care reform bill Wednesday. The Senate Finance Committee will now have to wrestle with how to pay for the plan. A totally different health care reform package is over in the House with a controversial surtax on the wealthy.

President Obama reiterated this week that he wants health care reform before the August Congressional recess.

The report, "Unequal Lives: Health Care Discrimination Harms Communities of Color in North Carolina," is sponsored by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a national grassroots movement of progressive organizations.

According to the study, over "103 million people of color [nationally] suffer disproportionately in the health care system." The quality of life and life expectancy for African-Americans, non-white Latinos, Native American and other communities of color is thus considerably less compared to non-Latino whites.

"Communities of color too often have fewer opportunities for regular health services, fewer treatment options, and lower-quality care. People in communities of color are also less likely to have access to comprehensive health care since they have lower incomes and higher rates of uninsurance and underinsurance," noted Dr. Leroy Darkes, director of the Rex Senior Health Center.

In North Carolina, "the infant death rate for whites is 6.3 per 1,000 live births, compared with 11.8 for African Americans," the report says. "Overall life expectancy for African Americans in North Carolina is 6 to 10 years shorter than that of whites. About 54 percent of Hispanics and 22 percent of African Americans in North Carolina are uninsured, compared with 14 percent of whites."

Tar Heel state health disparities, according to the HCAN report, are even grimmer yet:

* In North Carolina, about 14 percent of African-American adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, more than two and a half times the rate for Latinos, and more than 50 percent higher than for whites.

* Among adult African Americans in North Carolina, 10 percent have asthma, compared to 8 percent of whites and 3 percent of Latinos.

* In North Carolina, 31 percent of babies born to Latina women received no prenatal care, compared with 23 percent for African Americans and 10 percent for whites.

* The infant mortality rate for African Americans in North Carolina is more than two and a half times that of whites.

* The mortality rate for blacks in North Carolina is 20 percent higher than for whites and more than three times the rate for Latinos.

* Despite growing evidence of racial disparities in health status and medical services, no system exists in state for collecting comprehensive state and local data on disparities. As a result, many questions about the health of people of color in state remain unanswered. For example, it is not known how many African Americans or Latinos (compared to whites) have forgone care because they can't afford it.

* The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 11.1 percent of North Carolina's labor force is unemployed.

*In North Carolina, 1,547,212 people were uninsured in 2007.

*About 54 percent of Latinos in North Carolina are uninsured, almost four times the rate for whites.

*Health insurance premiums for North Carolina working families have skyrocketed, increasing 75 percent from 2000 to 2007.

*The full cost of employer-sponsored health insurance in North Carolina is projected to grow at an annual rate of 6.9 percent, compared to a 0.6 percent decrease in income.

*About 790,000 working non-elderly adults in North Carolina lack health insurance. That comprises 65 percent of the total non-elderly uninsured population.

The report's facts came from the US Census bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Public Health and Sciences.

Nationally, according to the HCAN study, "Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer account for two-thirds of all U.S. health care costs. African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and others who tend to live in neighborhoods with limited opportunities for healthful lifestyles have higher rates of all these diseases, and they fare worse in treatment. Were racial disparities absent from our society, the deaths of more than 880,000 African Americans would have been averted from 1991 to 2000, according to a recent analysis of mortality data."

"Compared to non-Latino whites, African Americans and Latinos are more likely to go without health care because they can't afford it," the report continued. "A larger share of African Americans and Latinos lack a usual place of health care, and they are less than half as likely as whites to have a regular doctor."

"Low-income Americans and people of color always score lower in measures of preventive health, such as frequency of cancer screenings and other well-visit checkups, ''the HCAN report states." Inequities in health are accompanied by disparities in health insurance coverage. They also have the highest rates of uninsurance. The lack of quality, affordable coverage makes these populations less likely to receive medical care and more likely to fall into poor health and die early, according to government analysts.''

"The implications…," the report maintains, given that the US Census Bureau projects that 62 percent of the US population will consist of people by the year 2050, ''…are profound.''

When it comes to fixing the disparities, the HCAN report recommends:
*Coverage should be backed by adequate reimbursement rates and effective performance incentives that promote provider participation, change the inefficient behavior of doctors and hospitals, and promote improved health for people of color.

*Substantial improvements in health and life expectancy will be achieved by addressing the social determinants of health, including a clean environment, occupational safety, safe neighborhoods and access to nutritious food.

*The nation must address chronic shortages of health professionals in communities of color and marginalized populations.

* Congress should implement mechanisms to support safety-net institutions and drive quality-improvement initiatives in all health care settings.

* Stakeholders and the public should be given good data by insurers and health care providers on race, ethnicity and ethnic sub-population, socioeconomic position, primary language, age, gender, and gender identity.

HCAN recently lobbied Congress to support Pres. Obama's health care plan, and specifically pressured Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) to join the effort.

"My colleagues and I on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have been working on a plan to reform the health care system in this country," Sen. Hagan, whose office says she was always in support of Obama's public option, said in a statement last week. "We have crafted a plan that will stabilize health care costs and includes a Community Health Insurance Option, which I support. It is a backstop option for people without access to affordable coverage. Health care providers will not be required to participate, payment rates will be set in a competitive fashion, and the community health insurance option will compete on a level playing field with private health insurance plans in the gateway."

Hagan voted with the Democratic majority on the committee Wednesday to approve that measure.

Part of the pressure on Hagan came from a telephone conference call she had with NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber, Lynice Williams, executive director of NC Fair Share, and community activist Stella Adams. It was during that call that it was made clear to the Guilford County Democrat that forcing private health insurers to compete with a government-run health care insurer would indeed allow more of the poor an communities of color access and the coverage that they need.

"Organizing works," declared Williams, whose NC Fair Share is one of the HCAN advocacy groups that released the report Wednesday. "It took a while, but after weeks of relentless pressure from her constituents, including busloads coming from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., Sen. Kay Hagan endorsed a strong public option."

Monday, July 27, 2009

CEOs Get One-Third of All Pay; Bank of America Uses Taxpayer $$ for Lobbying

by Tula Connell
July 22, 2009

Two news items out today highlight how far the nation needs to go in re-balancing the economy toward working people.

First, Think Progress points to a Wall Street Journal analysis that shows more than one-third of all pay in the U.S. now goes to executives and other highly-paid employees.

Highly paid employees received nearly $2.1 trillion of the $6.4 trillion in total U.S. pay in 2007, the latest figures available. The compensation numbers don't include incentive stock options, unexercised stock options, unvested restricted stock units and certain benefits.

The Wall Street Journal based its analysis on Social Security Administration data, which doesn't count billions of dollars more in pay that remain off federal radar screens that measure wages and salaries.

Next, it turns out that Bank of America, which received $45 billion in taxpayer-funded bailout support, has spent more than $1.5 million lobbying on Capitol Hill.

The Charlotte, N.C., company wants flexibility on spending the bailout funds and also wants to fend off restrictions on executive compensation, home mortgage lending and credit card fees. The bank also is lobbying on a consumer rights bill, on student lending issues, on a bill that would've allowed bankruptcy judges to alter mortgages and on a proposed federal regulatory oversight agency.

And none of its positions on any of these bills would help working families.

As we noted in April when we released the AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch data, the Bank of America lost nearly $2.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008 due to deeper than expected trading and loan losses. Even after receiving billions of dollars in taxpayer money, the bank plans to eliminate up to 35,000 jobs over the next three years-but CEO Kenneth Lewis collected nearly $10
million in 2008, more than 400 times the average amount a bank teller is paid each year. Since becoming CEO in April 2001, Lewis received $134 million in pay, bonuses,
stock awards and pension accruals.

As Think Progress notes, between 1979 and 2006, the inflation-adjusted after-tax income of the richest 1 percent of households increased by 256 percent, compared with 21 percent for families in the middle income quintile.

While U.S. worker productivity has skyrocketed over the past 30 years, wages have not kept pace.

America's working middle class made it clear last November that they wanted change-and reshaping the nation's economic framework to strengthen the middle class and close the wage disparity between the very top and the rest of us, is fundamental to that change.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Autoworkers Letter to Obama

To: President Barack Obama
From: Concerned Autoworkers, Retirees And Supporters
Re: Auto Industry Crisis & Global Climate Change

Date: July 14, 2009

Dear President Obama,

Your administration has reported that 400,000 jobs in the auto industry have been lost during the economic downturn. Though some jobs have been saved, many more will be lost through the bankruptcy restructuring implemented by the Auto Task Force at Chrysler and GM. Economists are predicting a slow recovery at best and, in any event, the market for autos and trucks will remain diminished for years to come. We in Detroit and in the automobile and manufacturing centers throughout the Midwest are faced with a major crisis for which a comprehensive solution is required.

We believe that the economic crisis is interwoven with an environmental one - that, in the words of NASA scientist Jim Hansen, we face an "irreversible tipping point" if we don't act swiftly to reduce our carbon footprint and therefore positively impact global climate change. We believe this fact requires rethinking our country's manufacturing priorities. Instead of laying off workers and devastating working-class communities, we believe the combination of crises demands a bold proposal that can put people back to work and address global climate change. We believe this
can be done, and done creatively.

Until the recent fall in vehicle sales, auto use was contributing 20% of all annual U.S.greenhouse gas emissions (more than four tons per person) and 40% of
all U.S. oil consumption. Yet of the 90% of Americans who drove to work in 2007, 76% drove alone. Fewer than 5% used public transportation. Eighty percent of the total U.S. population lives in metropolitan areas, with 30% in the cities. Yet few cities outside New York City have an adequate system of public transportation.

Clearly we must turn from an energy-inefficient, auto-centered society to one that increasingly uses mass transit along with energy-efficient vehicles. That means prioritizing buses, light rail, high-speed trains and the tracks they run on. Manufacturing also needs to
be geared toward building wind and water turbines as well as solar panels. Instead of attempting to resuscitate automobile companies, we should be building a Transportation and Energy Industry for the 21st century.

Your administration has taken a positive first step by creating two blue ribbon task forces; The White House Task Force on Middle Class Families, called "Promoting American Manufacturing in the 21st Century", chaired by Vice-President Biden, and the "White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers", under the leadership of Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis and Larry Summers, your Chief Economic Advisor. You have charged them with the tasks of preparing American industry for the future and supporting "manufacturing communities and workers."

We welcome these initiatives and urge you to ensure that the size of the ideas being considered match the size of the problems we face. The problems confronting us must be addressed holistically, the leadership must be visionary in its approach and the solutions must be innovative and far-reaching rather than politically expedient crisis management. To that
end, we offer the following ideas:

First, because, we the people are now major stockholders in GM and Chrysler, we believe that it
would be in the national interest to assume direct ownership of the GM and Chrysler plants that are closed or closing (as interest on our investment) to expedite
the retooling and conversion of these plants for the manufacture of the products that we have mentioned above.

We must start now, so that by 2010 we will be well on our way to creating the jobs of tomorrow. We have the facilities, the equipment, the skilled workers to be able to complete this in record time. All we need is the political will to do so.

We know this is not a pipe dream because it was at the start of U.S. involvement in World War II that a massive conversion of existing auto plants for war-time production was completed in just eight months. The obstacles that had to be overcome were not technical, but political. It behooves you and your administration to take on the threat of global climate change - and
the dislocations in the automobile industry - with the same sense of urgency and gravity that President Franklin Roosevelt acted upon then.

Additionally, it is our understanding that Chrysler and GM own a large number of patents for green technology. We encourage a thorough review of these patents and believe that any technology that GM and Chrysler own that they have no plans on utilizing in the next three years, be appropriated (again, as interest on investment) and uses found for these technologies.

Your administration is in a position at this moment of great peril, to create a new paradigm - for addressing the US role in industrial manufacturing and taking the
lead on combating global warming. We urge that - in this defining moment - you reiterate your pledge that "yes we can!"


Bill Alford, former President, UAW Local 235 (AAM),Detroit, MI
Theresa Barber, UAW Local 663, Anderson, IN
Al Benchich, former President, UAW Local 909 (GM), Warren, MI
Edward Blakley, UAW Local 653, Pontiac, MI
Michael Bloom, UAW 549, Mansfield, OH
Tony Browning, UAW Local 1700, Sterling Heights, MI
Brenda Caldwell, retiree, UAW Local 977, Marion, IN. Metal Fabricating Plant
Allen Cholger, Staff Rep., United Steelworkers, District 2
M. Crosby, UAW Local 2209, Ft. Wayne, IN
Connie DeVol, retiree, UAW Local 2151, Coopersville, MI(closed)
Dave Elsila,
Katie Elsila, UAW Local 1981
Dianne Feeley, UAW Local 235 (AAM), Detroit, MI
Bill FletcherJr., Center for Labor Renewal, co-author - SolidarityDivided
Lydia Fischer Ghana Goodwin-Dye, President, UAW Local 909, Warren, MI
David Green, Detroit Democratic Socialists of America,
Frank Hammer, UAW-GM International Representative, retired
Julie Hurwitz, Attorney
Michael Heaton, C.A.W Local 1285 (Chrysler)
Robert Ingalls, UAW (retired)
Barbara Ingalls, ITU/CWA
Glenn Jackson, UAW Local 5960, Lake Orion, MI
Cheryl Jameson, UAW Local 292, Kokomo, IN
Michael S. Japowicz Sr., UAW Local 594, Pontiac, MI
Florence Katroscik, UAW Local 909 Retiree, Warren, MI
John Kavanaugh, UAW Local 235(AAM) Detroit (retired)
Jack Kiedel, UAW Local 686, Lockport, NY
Thomas Lacas, G.M. Unit, CAW Local 199, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
Sharon McAlpine, UAW Local 235, AAM, Detroit MI, Toolmaker
Lew Moye, UAW Local 110 Retiree, St Louis, MO
Elly Leary, UAW Local 422, Framingham, MA
Robert E. Niethe, UAW Local 686, Lockport, NY, retired
Hiroko Niethe, UAW Local 686, Lockport, NY, retired
Glenn Brian Reday, GM UAW recently retired, Local 435 Wilmington, DE
Eric V. Reuther, son of UAW pioneers, Victor and Sophie Reuther
John S. Reuther, son of UAW Pioneer, Victor G. Reuther
Alexander "Sasha" Reuther, grandson of UAW Pioneer Victor G. Reuther
Michael Rynca, UAW Local 5960, Pontiac, MI
Joretta Rynca, UAW Local 651, Flint, MI
Paul Schrade, former UAW International Executive Board Member
Clay Smith, UAW Local 2166, Shreveport, LA
Jeffrey Stallman, IUE798, GM Moraine (closed Dec. 23, 2008)
Sam Stark, UAW retiree
Thomas W. Stephens, Policy Analyst, City of DetroitCity Council
James Theisen, UAW Local 212, Sterling Heights, MI
Wendy Thompson, former President UAW Local 235 (AAM) Detroit, MI
Carole Travis, former President,UAW Local 719, LaGrange, IL (retired)
Jerry Tucker, former UAW International Executive Board Member
Brett Ward, UAW Local 1700, Sterling Heights, MI
L. M. Wittek, UAW Local 2151, Retired, Coopersville, MI
Robert M. Woods, UAW Local 699, Saginaw, MI

Please send all correspondence to:

Autoworker Caravan
c/o Frank Hammer
20033 Renfrew
Detroit, MI 48221

Reprinted from Portside

Media on ‘card check’ Wrong or just missing the point?

Author: John Wojcik
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 07/23/09 12:59

Just days after the New York Times and other media outlets reported recently that a group of senators “dropped” the majority sign-up provision of the Employee Free Choice Act, the Service Employees International Union responded with an online petition campaign demanding that both houses of Congress schedule an up or down vote on the provision, either as part of the EFCA or by itself.

When he released the petition SEIU President Andy Stern said, “By giving workers the fair choice to join unions and not their bosses, majority signup allows workers to have a voice on the job. Congress needs to hear about your support for majority signup.”

“As we have said from day one, majority signup is the best way for workers to have the right to choose a voice at their workplace,” he said.

When the stories about the “death of card check” broke, a spokesperson for Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who is shepherding the bill through the Senate, denied the existence of any such agreement.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney indicated that what he called “speculative reports” about the “dropping” of card check were not the main issue regarding the legislation.

“A bill will be signed into law this year giving workers – not their bosses – the choice about how to form a union,” he declared.

Stern pointed out, “The Employee Free Choice Act is going through the usual legislative process and we expect a vote on the majority signup provision in the final bill or by amendment in both houses of Congress.”

The so-called deal that the media reports claimed would scuttle “card check,” as majority signup is sometimes called, was just one of many “compromises” floated recently among senators. All the compromises considered seriously by Harkin, the senator has said, involve keeping the intent of majority signup while finding a way to get the 60 votes needed to prevent a Republican filibuster against the EFCA.

None of the media reports about the negotiations pointed out that majority signup has been the way workers designate a union as their representative since the Wagner Act was passed during the Great Depression. Taft-Hartley amended that after World War II to allow companies the option of requiring a “secret ballot” election.

There would be no need for any talks about compromise were it not for several Blue Dog conservative Democratic senators who claim they support labor law reform but want to preserve secret ballot elections in the process.

Some of the proposed compromises discussed involve workers mailing their signed union authorization cards or even completed ballots directly to the NLRB.

Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania are among the senators Harkin and the unions have been pressuring, according to one of the People’s Weekly World’s labor sources who said, “The thinking there probably is that if Pryor goes along with something, so will Blanche Lincoln and the rest of the ones sitting on the fence.”

There are reports that among the revisions are ones that would require union elections five days after 30 percent of the workers signed authorization cards, another that would forbid companies from requiring workers to attend captive audience meetings, and one that would give union organizers access to company property.

The reports in the Times and elsewhere also neglected to mention that Harkin has said he will not agree to any measure that does not uphold three basic principals – workers getting the right to make an unhampered choice, stiffer penalties for companies that violate labor law, and provisions for arbitration when employers drag their feet in negotiations.

They also did not report that, according to Harkin, in the event of a move to gut any of the core principals, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has agreed that the original measure will be brought to the Senate floor for an up or down vote so “everyone can see where each senator stands.”

The pro-business Workforce Fairness Institute continues to churn out press releases indicating that even a bill without majority signup would be unacceptable. “We see it as a hostile act to have arbitrators telling businesses what they have to do,” the statement reads.

“Majority signup is based in a simple idea,” Stern said as he called for signatures on the SEIU petition. “If a majority of workers say they want a union, they should get a union. It’s the best way to make sure workers have a full and free choice to join a union without interference or harassment.”


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

International Indigenous Hip Hop Gathering - Which Side Are You On?

This is a great example of fighting working class culture in action. Which side are you on? Click here to listen.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Employee Free Choice Stuggle for Card Check

The New York Times today reported Democrats Drop Key Part of Bill to Assist Unions. Evidently,
A half-dozen senators friendly to labor have decided to drop a central provision of a bill that would have made it easier to organize workers.
Card check is the most important provision of the legislation, and would have "required employers to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted a union."

Efforts continue to add provisions to the revised legislation that would offer some protections to workers involved in union drives. One would require employers to give union organizers access to company property. Another would bar employers from requiring workers to attend anti-union sessions that labor supporters deride as “captive audience meetings.”

While these provisions may be helpful, the struggle for card check may continue if the AFL-CIO leadership and rank and file organized labor maintains the focus on that important initiative.

In a period of a continuing attack on real wages, the importance of working people uniting to fight to meet our needs and limit or end exploitation at the work place is vital. The claims by business forces that card check is anti-democratic can only be characterized as cynical and hypocritcal, coming from people who do everything possible to limit democratic rights in the work place and in the larger society in favor of their own self-interest.

The New York Times article can be found here.

In a related statement on July 13th, a few days before the Senator's statement, "President Barack Obama is telling labor leaders he remains committed to passage of a bill that would make it easier to form unions, but he's not offering any timeline." This reinforces the need to continue to struggle for card check. A strong union force in the United States is a key component to dealing with many of the social challenges we face today, balancing the power of big business, and bringing millions of people's voices to the table.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hard-hit Gary stops garbage pickup

Paul S. Kaczocha
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 07/15/09 16:19

GARY, Ind. – In another sign of the economic crisis hitting working class cities around the country, angry residents and laid off city workers rallied in front of this city’s new General Services building. The crowd brought uncollected garbage and dumped it in front of the building sign. This was only the second day of a stop in the collection of household waste here.

The issue started in October last year when Mayor Rudy Clay announced that the city was going to privatize the garbage collection and start charging its over 28,000 households a $12 monthly fee for trash pickup, under a no-bid contract with Allied Waste, a subsidiary of RSG Inc. which made over $2 billion last year.

The citizen group, Miller Citizen Corporation (MCC), took the city to court, arguing that garbage collection was part of the property taxes residents pay. Ultimately the courts ordered the city to bid the contract, declaring that the fee had to be approved by the City Council and that people’s water could not be cut off for lack of payment of the garbage fee.

Another citizens group, the Central District Organizing Project (CDOP), also joined the fight supporting the 49 laid-off city workers, many of whom were at the rally.

The MCC charged that according to the city’s own figures it cost only $2.9 million annually to pay the workers with benefits, pay for fuel and maintain the equipment, while Allied Waste was charging over $5 million on top of the $2 million tipping fee the city already pays to them. The city argues that it is trying to save money and close a $26 million dollar gap in the budget.

The issue came to a head last week when the City Council voted 6-3 against charging residents the $12 fee, many arguing that there was not even a signed contract yet with Allied. As a result garbage collection ceased this week.

The head of the MCC, attorney Douglas Grimes, charged at the rally that the city “did not need to privatize a basic service that had been done by the city for over 100 years.” He also charged that Allied had a 36 percent profit margin.

“Private enterprise is not here to help you unless they can help themselves, privatization is rarely cheaper,” he added. “The city can rehire these workers and begin to collect garbage again. Just walk down the street and you can see the garbage trucks behind the fence.” The MCC and CDOP, which organized the rally, urged citizens to take their garbage to City Hall.

Lori Peterson, from the CDOP, charged the city with dereliction of duty for saying that they were no longer going to pick up the garbage. “It’s like saying they won’t send out an EMT, fireman or police if someone calls in need,” she stressed.

The workers also spoke about how they had taken 23 percent in cuts to save their jobs and had been lied to when the city laid them off. The Teamsters Union is fighting the layoffs, which did not occur by seniority amongst other issues. Allied had rehired some of the younger, less experienced workers.

“We all live here in Gary, and they hired a company from out of the city and hire outside the city,” the workers charged.

Both the MCC and CDOP are demanding a rehiring of the workers, an end to the fee and the resumption of city-based collection.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Healthcare: Change the Debate Support a Real Public Option

Dear Friends,

In mid-May, in an effort to reach consensus, President Obama secured a deal with the health insurance companies to trim 1.5% of their costs each year for ten years saving a total of $2 trillion dollars, which would be reprogrammed into healthcare. Just two days after the announcement at the White House the insurance companies reneged on the deal which was designed to protect and increase their revenue at least 35% The insurance companies reneged on the deal because they refuse any restraint on increasing premiums, copays and deductibles - core to their profits. No wonder a recent USA Today poll found that only four percent of Americans trust insurance companies. This is within the margin of error, which means it is possible that NO ONE TRUSTS insurance companies.

Then why does Congress trust the insurance companies? Yesterday HR 3200 "America's Affordable Health Choices Act," a 1000 page bill was delivered to members. The title of the bill raises a question: "Affordable" for whom?.

Of $2.4 trillion spent annually for health care in America, fully $800 billion goes for the activities of the for-profit insurer-based system. This means one of every three health care dollars is siphoned off for corporate profits, stock options, executive salaries, advertising, marketing and the cost of paper work, (which can be anywhere between 15 - 35% in the private sector as compared to Medicare, the single payer plan which has only 3% administrative costs).

50 million Americans are uninsured and another 50 million are under insured while for-profit insurance companies divert precious health care dollars to non-health care purposes. Eliminate the for-profit health care system and its extraordinary overhead, put the money into healthcare and everyone will be covered, everyone will be able to afford health care.

Today three committees will begin marking up and amending HR3200. In this, one of the most momentous public policy debates in the past 70 years, single payer, the only viable "public option," the one that makes sound business sense, controls costs and covers everyone was taken off the table.

In contrast to HR3200 ... HR676 calls for a universal single-payer health care system in the United States, Medicare for All. It has over 85 co-sponsors in Congress with the support of millions of Americans and countless physicians and nurses. How does HR-676 control costs and cover everyone? It cuts out the for-profit middle men and delivers care directly to consumers and Medicare acts as the single payer of bills. It also recognizes that under the current system for-profit insurance companies make money NOT providing health care.

This week is the time to break the hold which the insurance companies have on our political process. Tell Congress to stand up to the insurance companies. Ask members to sign on to the only real public option, HR 676, a single-payer healthcare system.

Hundreds of local labor unions, thousands of physicians and millions of Americans are standing behind us. With a draft of HR3200 now circulating, It is up to each and every one of us to organize and rally for the cause of single-payer healthcare. Change the debate. Now is the time.

The time to act is now!

Sincerely Yours,

PS - Over the next several months, I will be engaging all of you with frequent updates and will ask you to continue a movement to fight for what needs to be done now; ending this war in Iraq and stopping the escalation in Afghanistan, attaining true single-payer healthcare for all Americans, standing up for my brothers and sisters of organized labor.

After you have contacted your member of Congress, please tell us your thoughts and ideas on how you are organizing your friends and neighbors towards a single-payer movement and all of the other issues that are important to us.

Contact us at feedback@kucinich.us.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jobs or Income Now for Working Families In The Current Economic Crisis

Ok, here are the facts as reported on July 9 in the New York Times and elsewhere:

The official national unemployment rate is 9.5%. That is huge. Unofficial figures run closer to 15% unemployment.

The count for continuing unemployment claims is 6.88 million people today, many of those people part of a struggling family and community. This is the most people officially unemployed since records started to be kept in 1967. And this doesn't include the many millions of people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

GM has emerged from bankruptcy. After receiving over $30 billion tax dollars to help it deal with the economic crisis, the "new" GM plans to layoff between 30,000 and 40,000 people in the USA.

The New York Times in a different article on July 1 reported "In the first report, construction spending fell more than expected in May, a sign the problems facing the nation’s builders are far from over."

In a report entitled Joblessness Hits 9.5%, Deflating Recovery Hopes, on July 2 the New York Times reported
“The numbers are indicative of a continued, very severe recession,” said Stuart G. Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh. “There’s nothing in here to show that the economy and the market are pulling out of the grip of recession.”
What is the point of all this doom and gloom? Something is wrong with the way we are responding to the current economic situation.

People need to be working. We have a social responsibility to ensure that the basic needs of working families are met by providing work at living wages or equivalent funds to keep us going while unemployed.

Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote on July 2 that,
[s]ince the recession began, the U.S. economy has lost 6 ½ million jobs — and as that grim employment report confirmed, it’s continuing to lose jobs at a rapid pace. Once you take into account the 100,000-plus new jobs that we need each month just to keep up with a growing population, we’re about 8 ½ million jobs in the hole.

And the deeper the hole gets, the harder it will be to dig ourselves out. The job figures weren’t the only bad news in Thursday’s report, which also showed wages stalling and possibly on the verge of outright decline. That’s a recipe for a descent into Japanese-style deflation, which is very difficult to reverse. Lost decade, anyone?

Wait — there’s more bad news: the fiscal crisis of the states. Unlike the federal government, states are required to run balanced budgets. And faced with a sharp drop in revenue, most states are preparing savage budget cuts, many of them at the expense of the most vulnerable. Aside from directly creating a great deal of misery, these cuts will depress the economy even further.
As a society we have to take care of our working families. We have, in my opinion, a social responsibility to provide work or wages to all our unemployed regardless of legal status or country of origin, bar none. Families should not be homeless. People should not be forced to beg for food money on the medians between traffic lanes. Our youth should graduate high school and college with work available to them.

The brutality of the current situation is not a result of the policies or practices of working people in the United States. The current crisis is a crisis of overproduction. It is not a result of the lack of foresight or lack of savings by working families. It is a result of the internal systemic problems endemic to capitalism.

The situation has to be addressed with urgency. Families are suffering. People are going hungry. Foreclosures and evictions continue to run rampant.

A program for Jobs or Income Now is needed today.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sign the Petition for a National Cesar E. Chavez Holiday!

The United Farm Workers and the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation are proud to support the grassroots efforts of the Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday Coalition.

Cesar was in Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s words, "one of the heroic figures of our time." He led the historic non-violent movement for farm worker rights and dedicated himself to building a movement of poor working people that extended beyond the fields and into cities and towns across the nation.

He inspired farm workers and millions of people who never worked on a farm to commit themselves to social, economic and civil rights activism. Cesar’s legacy, like the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., continues to educate, inspire and empower people from all walks of life. He is a role model for all Americans and for generations to come.

Please help us ensure all Americans learn about Cesar’s life and work. The Cesar Chavez National Holiday Coalition is gathering signatures on petitions asking Congress to designate March 31, Cesar’s birthday and the day the UFW was founded, as Cesar Chavez Day. Sign the petition today. Help ensure Cesar's legacy is recognized and celebrated throughout our nation with a federal paid holiday and a day of service and learning in our public schools.

The petition is available here.

Full Petition Text:

Petition to President Obama and members of the U.S. Congress

I call on the U.S. Congress to establish an official federal paid holiday in honor of Cesar E. Chavez, the late president of the United Farm Workers, on his birthday, March 31. This should include a Cesar Chavez day of service-learning and community action.
Signed by:

[Your name]
[Your address]

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Let Senator Bayh Know We Stand for HR676 and S. 703

As the discussion on health care moves forward, its important to participate in the process, and not to leave it to the big business interests to define what kind of health care system reforms are enacted. Please take a moment to call Senator Bayh and let him know you stand with the thousands who have expressed support nationally for HR676 - the National Health Care System, also known as Medicare for All. The senate version of this bill is called S. 703.

Senator Bayh can be contacted at:

1650 Market Tower
10 West Market Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 554-0750


131 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-5623

Contact information for the Senator's other regional area addresses are available here.

Background information on this issue is available from Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan and Physicians for a National Health Program.

Tell Senator Bayh that single-payer health reform is the only practicable way to achieve his stated goal of universal, comprehensive coverage at an affordable price.

Only single payer, by redirecting the vast sums wasted annually on bureaucracy and paperwork back into care, can assure high-quality coverage for everyone with no net increase in U.S. health spending. Only single payer can rein in costs.

Lesser reforms, with or without a “public option,” won’t fix our broken system.