Cleveland, like many other industrial cities in the “rust belt,” has suffered terribly in the economic crisis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unemployment in Ohio is at 10.8 percent. (bls.gov) The Cleveland Police Department wages a reign of terror against oppressed people, and seeks to jail young Rebecca Whitby for daring to file a complaint after suffering a police assault in her own home.
Cleveland has just closed 16 school buildings in an effort to reduce costs and deal with funding cutbacks. Neither the communities near the schools nor the students’ parents were consulted, sparking community outrage and protests.
Former Cleveland resident Drew Carey, now a million-dollar entertainer in Los Angeles, proclaims he has the solution. This former sit-com star and current host of “The Price is Right” has produced a four-part documentary called “Reason Saves Cleveland.” In it Carey proclaims that the answer to the woes of his former hometown is extreme cutbacks, privatizations and charter schools. (reason.tv)
Carey’s condescending film gives a distorted history of Cleveland, littered with factual omissions. He claims the boom in Cleveland’s economy following WWII was due to “a business friendly climate.” He never mentions how the Cleveland auto workers occupied General Motors’ Fisher Body plant as part of the 1937 sit-down wave, which started nearby with the Akron rubber workers, and how these strikes won decent wages and union rights for workers and their families.
Carey never mentions the struggles of oppressed people in Cleveland, who rose up heroically against racism numerous times, such as in 1968 when Ahmed Evans did battle with the brutal, racist Cleveland Police Department, or the famous Hough rebellion when the Black working class took to the streets after a restaurant owner hung an illegal Jim Crow-style sign in front of his business establishment.
Cleveland was hardly pro-business when it was the site of the Ohio Industrial Organizing Council, part of the CIO, a grouping of unions that at the time was a radical departure from the AFL. This largely Cleveland-based union was known for its militancy and fighting spirit. Cleveland also was the site of the founding convention of the Trade Union Unity League, a coalition of trade unions which proclaimed the overthrow of capitalism as one of its founding principles.
The TUUL led numerous strikes among Kentucky miners, southern textile workers and countless other groups of workers who were left abandoned by the right-wing AFL. Unlike the other unions of the time, both the TUUL and the CIO made a point of not participating in racist demagogy as was common among their rivals in organized labor.
The TUUL was known for appointing Black communist Harry Haywood to lead the strike of mostly white Pennsylvania miners in order to make a strong stance against racism. The CIO refused to back or defend “hate strikes” by white workers who opposed workplace integration, and was a key ally of the emerging Civil Rights movement.
Carey’s solution to the educational woes of Cleveland seems to be the destruction of the public school system, replacing it with schools run for profit, also called charter schools.
Cleveland resident Kadie Huntsman told Workers World about her experiences as a student at “Life Skills,” one of the city’s charter schools. She said that instead of being taught, she sat at a computer clicking through screens of information while nonunion, low-paid teachers sat silently watching at the end of the room, without a contract and subject to “fire at will” employment.
Greg Owens, another veteran of an Ohio charter school, told WW of how the schools routinely fail students in order to receive more tax dollars to fund teaching “troubled youth.” This practice is sometimes worth three times as much in profits for the school-corporation.
Carey’s “Reason Saves Cleveland” series calls for massive deregulation, cutbacks and destruction of nearly all the gains won by years of struggle on the part of Cleveland workers and oppressed people. The producers of his film, associated with Reason magazine, are openly anti-working class.
The answer for workers and oppressed people in Cleveland is not the economic self-mutilation of Drew Carey’s plan to “save” Cleveland, or the racism, sexism and extreme bigotry of the right-wing elements who funded this “documentary,” revising Cleveland’s history and extolling the virtues of poverty, deregulation and attacks on working people.
The answer is for the workers and oppressed people of Cleveland to join together and fight back in their own interests, demanding their basic human rights to employment, health care, quality education and freedom from repression.
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