Publication of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA
The Debt Ceiling “Duel” of the Republicans “versus” Obama and the Democrats:
Illusion and Reality
by RAY LIGHT
Also included in this issue:
NUHW Wins in San Francisco, Workers and Community Rejoice
National Union of Healthcare Workers Stunning Legal Victory
Terror in Norway – Through the Lens of the Wall Street Journal
“If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention”
The agreement includes a 12 member Congressional “supercommittee” made up of three Republican and three Democratic Senators as well as three Republican and three Democratic House members who will together wield tremendous powers to make austerity cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc., exactly what Obama had sought from Congress before he had to resort to creating his own “bipartisan” Bowles-Simpson austerity commission two years ago.
Combined with the unraveling of the European Union, the loss of faith in the U.S. Empire’s previously “Almighty Dollar” has led to the beginnings of a new rapid slide in stock markets all over the world. And the only reason U.S. treasury securities are still being purchased is because there are hardly any “safe havens” for investment capital anywhere in the world in this period of systemic capitalist collapse.
Nevertheless, in the immediate aftermath of the August 2nd agreement, from the Wall Street bankers and Corporate America there was a sigh of relief. For those of us on Main Street, the rest of us, the working class and oppressed nationalities, in particular, there was no relief in sight. In fact, we now have even more reason to worry about the future of our families, our communities, our country and the world’s peoples.
The original form of the following article was written and dated July 27, 2011, about a week before the August 2nd agreement was reached.*
The original article is being published in our new book, entitled, U.S. “Democracy” – The U.S. Empire’s Indispensable Myth
Day after day for almost the two full months of June and July, the monopoly capitalist controlled mass media was filled with headline stories about “the U.S. debt ceiling crisis.”
Corporate America and U.S. finance capital clearly directed the President and Congress to raise the debt ceiling. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and Financial Services Forum have spent months in briefings with lawmakers warning about the implications of a default. They pointed out that if the government’s bond rating were downgraded it could cost one million jobs in the USA, among other things. In mid July, “some 470 executives — including the chief executives from Alcoa Inc., DuPont, Citigroup Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. — released a letter to the President and Congress urging them to raise the debt ceiling.” (WSJ, 7-13-11)
According to U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, “We borrow 40 cents for every dollar we spend now. And Congress has to raise the debt limit before we run out of that room.” (Wall Street Journal, 6-17-11) There is general agreement that the current $14.29 trillion borrowing limit of the U.S. government, the ceiling on the amount of debt which the U.S. imperialist state can accumulate, will be reached on August 2nd of this year. We are now less than one week away from this date and still the Republicans and Democrats seem unable to unite to raise the debt ceiling.
Under the pressure of having to raise the debt ceiling level right away so as to avoid default, the Republicans and Democrats appear to be waging a fierce, no-holds-barred fight against each other. Both parties appear to be using the debt ceiling crisis as “hostage” to their economic objectives. The message that the monopoly capitalist controlled mass media is conveying to the people of the USA is that “U.S. Democracy” has been alive and well in this bitter debate and that the citizen’s vote means something after all.
According to the media, Obama and the Democrats want to make the wealthy pay increased taxes, as compared to the scandalously minimal taxes they currently pay, in order to get the U.S. government’s debt crisis under control. According to this narrative, Obama and the Democrats want the increased tax revenues from the coffers of the rich to be the main ingredient in stopping the runaway deficit that already has made the USA the biggest debtor country on earth. Obama and the Democrats are thus portrayed as the defenders of the middle class, the workers and the poor; they are presented as the defenders of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits.
The Republicans, on the other hand, are the defenders of the eternal continuation of the Bush tax cuts for the rich. In their open defense of the rich, the Republicans still uphold the bankrupt “trickle-down” theory that claims the money needs to be in the hands of the “job creators,” i.e. the rich. The Republicans adamantly insist that virtually all the debt problems of the U.S. government be dealt with by cutting and eliminating the so-called “entitlement programs.” These programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, represent a limited social safety net for the tens of millions of middle class people, the working class and the poor that make up the vast majority of the U.S. population.
If “U.S. Democracy” had any substance, if this Democratic Party versus Republican Party scenario represented the reality of the political situation, the masses could and would get behind the Democrats with such overwhelming numbers and power that, at the very least, tax loopholes for the wealthy would be closed. (Remember, General Electric, among the largest and most profitable companies in the USA, paid no taxes last year!) And the tax rates for the wealthiest U.S. citizens would more than double to at least what they were during the Republican Eisenhower administration!
The mock battles of the Republicans and the Democrats
Unfortunately, the part of this scenario that portrays Obama and the Democrats as the defenders of the interests of the people is a grand illusion, a big lie. Neither “side” in the “debt ceiling debate” represents the interests of the workers and the oppressed (or even the middle class). The Democrats and Republicans have merely been “shadow-boxing” in order to placate and disorient the masses of the USA into allowing their previously hard-won gains to be taken away. The Republicrats led by Democratic President Obama and Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner are working hand in hand to use the current debt ceiling crisis to try to resolve the U.S. economic crisis on the backs of the workers and oppressed of the USA and the world.*
* The introduction of the tea party members of Congress into the debate, in this period, is significant mainly in helping to determine how quickly, thoroughly and mercilessly will be the fleecing of the masses of the U.S. population by the Republicrat servants of U.S. monopoly capitalism and imperialism.
Let’s look at the coordinated conduct of the Republicans and Democrats in the federal government since the current economic crisis entered its acute phase in August and September of 2008.
- Republican President George W. Bush and his Secretary of the Treasury, (Goldman, Sachs alumnus) Henry Paulson, immediately responded with a plan for a $700 billion dollar bailout of Wall Street. The whole world, and especially global finance capital, was shocked when it was initially defeated in the House of Representatives, with most of the opposition coming from Republican House members, who were about to stand for re-election. It took forceful leadership from Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to get Republican President Bush’s Bailout bill passed. Along with Pelosi, both the Republican and Democratic candidates for President, McCain and Obama, heartily endorsed the Wall Street bailout.
- One of the first acts of the new Democratic Obama Administration was to match Bush’s bailout of Wall Street with one of its own; it was even roughly the same $700 billion dollar size. Obama’s “new” Democratic economic brain trust was spearheaded by Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner whom the Washington Post had described as “a primary architect of the Bush Administration’s response to the financial crisis.” (Our emphasis, ROL) Like his predecessor Paulson, Geithner was an alumnus of Goldman, Sachs. And the fact that Obama’s Treasury Secretary came through the Wall Street ranks of Goldman, Sachs can be no surprise; for Goldman, Sachs was the largest contributor to Obama’s presidential campaign. It can be no surprise either, that Goldman, Sachs was the “lucky” recipient of much government largess in the Wall Street bailouts from both the Republican and Democratic regimes during Wall Street’s most desperate hours.
- Well before the 2010 midterm election, on February 18, 2010, at a time when the Democratic Party had control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency, President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing a bilateral austerity commission, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, at the head of which he placed former Democratic President Clinton’s chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson. Obama’s Commission issued its report in December 2010, getting maximum momentum out of the tea party-led Republican victory in the midterm election. For, it was Obama’s Commission that first recommended in an authoritative and “bipartisan” way, cuts in what had been virtually untouchable social programs, including Social Security and Medicare.
- Following the 2010 midterm Republican victory in which the tea party movement played such a pivotal role, we described this emerging political movement as follows: “The Tea Party movement which appeared on the scene in the name of defending citizen rights against federal encroachments has already been transformed into a battering ram, a fascistic bulwark of the drive toward the even more rapid elimination of social benefits and civil rights of the people of the USA, propelling forward the Obama-“Republicrat” drive toward the pauperization of U.S. society on behalf of Wall Street and U.S. imperialism.” (“The 2010 Election Charade in the Crisis-Ridden USA,” Ray O’Light Newsletter #63, November-December 2010) In December 2010, while the Democrats were still in control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency, in response to the tea party’s election momentum, Obama made a shocking deal with the Republicans in Congress, with a tip of the hat to the new tea party members of Congress who had not even been seated yet!
Even Obama apologists such as the editors of the left-liberal Nation magazine, while trying to whitewash what had occurred, admitted that, “the lame-duck session saw President Obama and the Democratic Congressional leaders force both chambers to accept a tax cut ‘compromise’ that extended Bush-era tax breaks for billionaires, developed a sweeping estate tax exemption for millionaires and put Social Security at risk.” (The Nation, January 10/17, 2011)
The December 2010 lame-duck session of Congress gave the U.S. imperialist ruling class a “slam dunk” victory. They were remarkably successful in continuing to shift the burden of the U.S. economic crisis onto the backs of the workers and oppressed. And the key to their victory was a concoction of three political ingredients: the regular Republican Party as well as the regular Democratic Party political servants of U.S. monopoly capital led by Obama were combined with the new and rising and energetic motley crew of the tea party, fanatically pro capitalist and pro U.S. imperialist and, at the same time, fueled by their white supremacy, pointedly “anti-federal government” with President Obama as their focal point.
Given the presence of these same ingredients, why should the U.S. imperialist ruling class experience with the debt ceiling debate be any less successful than their experience with the December lame-duck session of Congress?!
“Deficit reduction” – a code name for fleecing the people
Lenin taught that the more powerful the imperialist country the more rapid decline it can experience. The debt ceiling debate is a reflection in the first place of the current contradiction between two outstanding facts: U.S. imperialism still retains military and diplomatic and financial organization supremacy in the world capitalist system (NATO, UNO, and World Bank/IMF are examples), while it has become the biggest debtor country in the world.
In this setting, in which U.S. imperialism will have to pay down, if not pay off, its enormous debt, a shrinking public sector is aggravating the jobs crisis, the economic depression for the U.S. working class, already plagued by the shrinking private economy. And the so-called “entitlement” cuts for the masses of the U.S. people projected by the August 2nd agreement will accelerate this jobs crisis, continuing the epidemic of job loss, wage loss, and a deteriorating standard of living for the working people of the USA.
Drastic reduction in the value of the dollar can drastically reduce the current U.S. government debt owed to banks, sovereign wealth funds, etc. And it can eventually lead to a significant increase in U.S. exports and foreign investment in the U.S., increasing U.S. jobs and tax revenue and further diminishing the crushing U.S. debt over time. However, dollar devaluation at the same time means the impoverishment of the masses of the U.S. people. And, in the final analysis, this will be the one definite result of the current debt ceiling crisis.
As far back as December 2009, the National Organization of Women (NOW) warned that, “a stealth move is under way in Washington, D.C. to recover billions spent bailing out the banks and Wall Street by cutting benefits under the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs … the fear mongering over the national debt has been promoted mostly by billionaire Peter G. Peterson who made his fortune doing takeover deals on Wall Street …” (Our emphasis, ROL)
This is precisely the scenario that played out in every mass media for all of June and July, 2011, a year and one-half later. And the aim has remained the same: To shift the burden of the economic crisis entirely onto the toiling masses of the USA and beyond. The U.S. ruling class further hopes to salvage the capitalist political-economic system and even its hegemonic position in that system on the basis of the pauperization of the people of the USA.
In a recent Wall Street Journal column, Martin Feldstein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Ronald Reagan, asserted: “A falling dollar may be the only major economic change that can accelerate the anemic pace of recovery and prevent a new downturn in U.S. economic activity. The declining dollar has been the key driver of American exports. … Although exports are only 10% of U.S. GDP, the rise in exports during the past four quarters contributed more than 50% of GDP growth during that period.” (“A Falling Dollar Will Mean a Faster U.S. Recovery,” WSJ, 8-1-11) Feldstein explains that, unlike “Europe’s highly unionized economy,” “in the U.S., where only 7% of private workers are unionized, there is now little danger of an inflationary wage-price spiral.” (ibid.) In other words, Feldstein is counting on U.S. workers being too weak and divided to mount a powerful trade union and/or political response to a rapid devaluation of the dollar and our real wages, worsening standard of living, etc.*
* Compare, for example, the powerful anti-government austerity struggles in the streets carried out by the Greek working people throughout this crisis.
In Ray O’Light Newsletter #59, we entitled one section, “Obama and the Federal Government Preside over the U.S. Empire in Decline.” Its opening sentence was as follows: “Barack Obama is well suited for the difficult task of presiding over an orderly march of the U.S. population to impoverishment in the desperate effort of the U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist ruling class to save itself and its hegemonic position in the world capitalist system.” We continued: “This march to impoverishment, however, is still only in its beginning stages. And the challenge to the U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist ruling class and President Obama to lead the masses of working people and oppressed nationalities in the USA to poverty without us opting to revolt, without us turning to socialist revolution for the way out of our difficulties, will only get more difficult.”(March-April 2010)
Dennis Kucinich, arguably the most progressive people’s politician in the U.S. Congress, recently declared: “There is a massive transfer of wealth from the American people to the hands of a few and it’s going on right now as America’s eyes are misdirected to the political theater of these histrionic debt negotiations, threats to shut down the government, and willingness to make the most Americans pay dearly for debts they did not create.” (“America’s Wealth is Stolen,” 7-16-11) Kucinich, himself a Democrat, honestly exposed the fact that, “President Obama —against all promises — just put Social Security cuts on the table.”
Famed New York Times economic pundit Paul Krugman reports: “President Obama has made it clear that he’s willing to sign on to a deficit-reduction deal that consists overwhelmingly of spending cuts, and includes draconian cuts in key social programs, up to and including a rise in the age of Medicare eligibility. These are extraordinary concessions ... The president has offered deals that are far to the right of what the average American voter prefers — in fact, if anything, they’re a bit to the right of what the average Republican voter prefers!” (“Getting to Crazy,” New York Times, 7-14-11)
Because he is a pro imperialist journalist who believes in the U.S. two party “democratic” political system which he refuses to see in its interconnection with the economic system and its rulers, Krugman is baffled by the Republicans’ “intransigence” in turning down Obama’s “extraordinary concessionary” deal. Krugman continues, “Put it this way: If a Republican president had managed to extract the kind of concessions on Medicare and Social Security that Mr. Obama is offering, it would have been considered a conservative triumph.” (ibid.) Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Krugman, as an apologist for the system refuses to see that the Democrats and Republicans are working together, are conspiring to make it appear that Obama and the Democrats, in order to have the government debt ceiling extended, are being “forced” to sacrifice the material gains of generations of U.S. workers.
At the beginning of the debt ceiling “debate,” Obama and the Democrats claimed that Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare would not be on the table at all. And they claimed that they would seek the lion’s share of the deficit reduction from forcing the rich to pay higher taxes.
In a replay of the December 2010 total victory for the rich, however, Obama and Republican House Speaker Boehner have been working together to craft a deficit-reduction plan. Because the tea party Republican members of Congress indicated they will not vote for raising the debt ceiling if it is tied to any tax increases, by which they also mean the cessation of any of Bush’s once temporary tax cuts, several other Republicrat (i.e. bipartisan) plans have been floated. These include Republican Senator Mitch McConnell’s proposal to allow Obama to propose three debt-limit increases adding up to $2.5 trillion over the coming months, which, with the connivance of the Senate Majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid, (and parliamentary rule juggling) would allow the Republicans to not have to vote in favor. Also included is the Gang of Six Senators’ (three Republicans and three Democrats) plan which combines spending cuts with reform that would lower tax rates (!), according to the Wall Street Journal.
The result has been, as Wall Street Journal pundit Gerald Seib observed even before the end of June, “… the debate in Washington has shifted from whether to cut spending to how much and how fast to cut spending … Even the dispute over taxes seems manageable. Democrats aren’t trying to raise tax rates; they have mostly thrown in the towel on that idea.” (“Debt Talks’ Impasse Masks Real Progress,” WSJ, 6-28-11)
The Wall Street Journal, the major mouthpiece for the U.S. imperialist ruling class, has editorially urged its Republican allies to get behind McConnell’s proposal and then the Gang of Six plan. Regarding the latter plan, a Journal editorial concludes that, “even the $600 billion in spending cuts in stage one are worth grabbing as part of a debt ceiling vote. More broadly, Democrats in the Gang are making a big concession by saying that tax rates should go down, not up, and that the older entitlements and even ObamaCare must be reformed.” (WSJ, 7-21-11)
Clearly, in the name of achieving the raising of the debt ceiling, the Republicrat deal to place the burden of the economic crisis on the shoulders of the workers and the oppressed had already been made. The WSJ Editors then concentrated on pushing their Republican Congressional allies to pass the raise in the debt ceiling so as to avoid a costly U.S. government default and other unforeseen economic calamities for U.S. finance capital. They are trying to keep their bankrupt capitalist system from collapse.
The likely outcome of the two month debt ceiling debate brainwash is that the “Republicrat” deal, further enriching Wall Street while rapidly impoverishing Main Street, will be consummated in time to head off the August 2nd default deadline date. There has been no opportunity for the “democratic expression” of the will of the majority. This whole process is in line with the profound observation made by Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that “the financial oligarchy” had “captured” the U.S. government and will lead to a new Great Depression if not resisted and stopped. (“The Quiet Coup,” May 2009 Atlantic Magazine) So much for “U.S. Democracy” on the question of the domestic economy!
There is a caveat, a warning, however, that needs to be given. The tea party movement is an extremely dangerous development in the political life of the USA. There is a slight possibility that the jingoistic, pro-military, white supremacist and deeply ignorant tea party members of Congress and those they influence, flush with the power they have exerted thus far (as it has conformed with the interests of U.S. monopoly capital), will not be able to be brought into line by the heretofore dominant elements of U.S. finance capital, represented politically by the Republicrats. If this is the case, the debt ceiling may not be raised and the U.S. government may go into default on its vast debts.*
* Reactionary forces created, promoted and financed by U.S. imperialism oftentimes end up beyond its control. Examples of this phenomenon include the creation and promotion of Islamic fundamentalism by U.S. imperialism several decades ago as a counter force to Arab nationalism and socialism in the Middle East and the creation and promotion of the anti-Soviet mujahedeen, including Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan. Even though U.S. imperialism was the source of these groups they developed into forces no longer under the control of the U.S. government and in some cases such as the Taliban these forces became antithetical to the interests of U.S. imperialism.
Such a scenario will precipitate a substantial collapse of the U.S. economy; and its relationship to the rest of the world capitalist economy will immediately become a source of terrible disruption, contention and threats of major war. Even though this scenario is unlikely at this time, the economic brinksmanship already displayed by these political forces is serving as a dress rehearsal for some later date when tea party type political forces, better coordinated with the vast U.S. military-industrial-intelligence complex, may make a military-political stand against countries like China, India, Germany, France, Russia, Japan and/or Brazil as they demand payment of the unprecedentedly large debt which the U.S. government owes to them.
The debt-ceiling debate, featuring the battle between the Republicrats and the profoundly reactionary tea party politicians, far from reflecting a stable “U.S. Democracy,” actually underscores the truth of Lenin’s teachings on the nature of the state and specifically on the nature of imperialism, the last, dying stage of capitalism. Imperialism represents “political reaction all along the line … corruption, bribery on a huge scale and all kinds of fraud; the exploitation of oppressed nations … increasingly transforms the ‘civilized’ world into a parasite on the body of hundreds of millions in the uncivilized nations;” “finance capital strives for domination, not freedom.” (Excerpts from Lenin’s Imperialism and the Split in Socialism) Thus, the causes and results of the current U.S. debt-ceiling “debate” are a harbinger of the drive toward global imperialist war. The myth of “U.S. Democracy” and specifically the illusion that Obama and the Democratic Party represent a progressive alternative to the Republican Party must be eradicated by and for the earth’s billions of people once and for all.
Finally, the Debt Ceiling Debate and the August 2nd Agreement of the Obama-led Republicrats, including with the Tea Party members of Congress, is a new step on the road to our ruin. When will we workers and oppressed nationalities in the USA begin to revolt against the collapsing capitalist system and its rulers on our path to socialist revolution?
On 10 May 2011, the NLRB counted the votes after a hotly contested labor battle between the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) over the right to represent 800+ workers at San Francisco’s Sutter California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC). The final tally resulted in 384 votes for NUHW and 237 for SEIU. Since that date, SEIU has filed frivolous charges, blocking NUHW’s certification. Because of this maneuver, SEIU continued to collect dues from the workers who just voted them out until mid-August when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certified that NUHW was the new representative of the workers at Sutter CPMC.
On 27 January 2009, Washington D.C.-based SEIU placed SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West into trusteeship. It then fired the democratically elected officers and shop stewards of the local. Just days after the takeover, workers and former staff of the local formed NUHW. In early February of 2009, workers at the CPMC filed paperwork with the NLRB with over 70% support to petition to leave SEIU and join NUHW. Usually when this happens the NLRB schedules an election within 45 days of the petition. Knowing it would lose an election, SEIU then filed blocking charges with the anti-union Board. This tactic resulted in the delay of the election, lasting over 27 months (this action is one of many that show the hypocrisy of SEIU as it lobbies for EFCA*)! Meanwhile in San Francisco, Sutter CPMC issued badges to SEIU staff as it worked together with management to stifle NUHW support. SEIU even got management to suspend two former shop stewards because of their support for NUHW. Threats and intimidation from SEIU and the boss became a daily routine for the 800+ workers at CPMC (which consists of three hospital campuses – California, Davies, and Pacific).
* EFCA, The Employee Free Choice Act, is a legislative effort that, if passed by Congress, would enhance the rights of workers to join unions with less interference from the companies, speed up the union election process and provide stiffer penalties against companies that violate labor law. As the main legislative thrust of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win coalitions, and given as a compelling reason to elect Democrats over Republicans in 2008, EFCA faced an early death at the hands of the Democratic controlled Congress and Executive Branch. – Editor
SELLING OUT THE WORKERS AND THE COMMUNITY
Since taking over at CPMC, SEIU began its divide and conquer campaign by firing all elected stewards. Working hand-in-hand with the boss, SEIU organizers roamed the halls (many private areas that would violate HIPAA medical privacy laws) to sniff out and intimidate NUHW supporters. If that wasn’t enough, the boss called the police daily on NUHW organizers, while turning a blind eye to whatever SEIU was doing. When the contract negotiations came around, SEIU did not allow the members to elect their bargaining team; they appointed only workers who gave a loyalty pledge to Dictator-in-Chief Dave Regan (the national SEIU appointed Trustee) and SEIU. This unqualified group kept their work secret, not allowing any of the rank-and-file to join the bargaining sessions. Once the contract was finalized, it soon became very clear why the negotiations were kept in the dark: takeaways to the workers’ healthcare plan (making the workers pay for healthcare for the first time ever!), gutting seniority language, delaying the bidding process, and subcontracting. And if screwing the workers wasn’t enough, SEIU made a deal with Sutter to support their controversial plan to build a new hospital, Cathedral Hill, while shutting down St. Luke’s, a hospital that cares for mostly minority working poor in the community. The contract language clearly shows how close SEIU was with the boss: “SEIU-UHW agree(s) to publicly and privately support the Medical Center’s building projects,” (page 135 of CPMC contract). A side letter in the contract also states that SEIU-UHW must spend time building support for the project.
COMMUNITY AGAINST CATHEDRAL HILL
For years, the San Francisco community has been fighting against Sutter and its proposed Cathedral Hill project. After the SEIU contract was ratified and made public, outrage from the community quickly followed. Speaking to Randy Shaw of Beyond Chron, Terrie Frye, a community activist, said, “This is just awful. They did this with no community input. I’m surprised that a union (SEIU) that claims to care about health care would make such a deal.” Sutter is considered by many to be the most anti-union employer in the state of California. As of right now, Sutter is involved in litigation over its discriminatory practices towards their Filipino workers; the state is suing them over fraud; and just recently, an NLRB judge set up a hearing after it was found that Sutter colluded with SEIU during a union election against NUHW at Sutter Alta Bates.
Despite the recent deal between Sutter and SEIU in support of the Cathedral Hill project, the community realized they had an important ally in the fight: support from the workers inside the hospital, who were organizing with NUHW. It became clear to the public that a victory by NUHW over SEIU would allow the union to re-bargain the contract and challenge Sutter over their Cathedral Hill plans. Although NUHW is not even three years old, the union goes back decades to Local 250 with the leadership of Sal Rosselli. The San Francisco community rallied behind their new partners. They joined with the healthcare workers at city hall meetings, voicing their displeasure with the plan. At a rally with Jobs for Justice, many NUHW workers took time to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the neighbors. In April, with the election around the corner, rank-and-file nurses of the CNA began publicly supporting NUHW inside CPMC. Despite pressure from SEIU leaders, these brave nurses wore NUHW pins and buttons on a daily basis, posed for pictures on NUHW literature, talked to their co-workers about the importance of voting for NUHW, and also, in defense of patient care, kicked out SEIU staff people from the floors where they were not permitted. Local leaders from the Blue Ribbon Commission and other community groups, as well as Bay Area politicians, came out publicly for NUHW. According to workers inside CPMC, a mailer that included pictures of popular local politicians and activists helped many workers who were on the fence get a clear picture on who to vote for.
Despite the mass resources SEIU had in the election, NUHW was able to win the election almost 2-1. This was done by grass roots organizing with an emphasis on class-conscious messaging. Workers talked with each other and listened to the community. This was one of the few recent union elections in the country that encompassed not just the workers, but also the community around it. Hopefully this election will be the guiding light to future campaigns showing that when you build community support, workers and their neighbors can win. Congratulations to the men and women at CPMC as well as the San Francisco community for standing up for what is right.
National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) Wins Stunning Legal Victory –
A Step Toward Union Victory for 44,000 Kaiser Workers!
by MIKE S. and RAY LIGHT
NUHW was born in the struggle against the national SEIU’s dictatorial takeover of its outstanding and progressive California based 150,000 United Healthcare West Local. Since its inception the militant and democratic National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and the workers have faced profound collaboration between the bosses, the SEIU bureaucrats and the U.S. government. In one union election after the other, the hospital and long term care corporations gave favored treatment to the SEIU and threatened workers with drastic consequences if the NUHW was victorious. The SEIU, the largest union in the United States, used its deep pockets and political connections to delay elections in its attempt to crush the NUHW. The government consistently sided with the SEIU and ensured elections were delayed, taking steam out of the new and rising NUHW. Such was the case with the giant 44,000 worker Kaiser Permanente “Service and Technical” Unit of California where the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) delayed the election for 19 months. The delay turned what would have surely been a “slam dunk” victory for NUHW and would have provided a strong basis for this new and rising union, into a victory for the SEIU last October.
But that SEIU “victory” was based on unlawful conduct that deprived the California Kaiser workers of their right to a fair union election.
The evidence was so overwhelming and violations so egregious that even an Administrative Law Judge recently made a virtually unprecedented ruling in favor of the NUHW and nullified last October’s election affecting the Kaiser workers who comprise the single largest bargaining unit in the hospital industry.
When three distinct professional units in Southern California voted overwhelmingly to leave the SEIU and join NUHW, Kaiser Corporation unlawfully denied these workers wages and benefits they were due. As a basis for her ruling on July 18, 2011, Judge Lana H. Parke singled out the SEIU’s use of Kaiser management’s unlawful actions during the union election. It was this collaboration based on Kaiser Corporation’s unlawful actions coordinated with SEIU’s use of this corporate misconduct that loudly sent the message to the Kaiser workers – if you vote for the NUHW you will lose wages and benefits!
Judge Parke concluded that, “In intervenor’s [SEIU’s] communications about potential benefit losses, Kaiser’s ULP’s [unfair labor practices] figured as silent, menacing reminders that Kaiser not only could, but already had, unilaterally withheld benefits when other employees had chosen to be represented by NUHW.... statewide unit employees voted with objectively reasonable ... apprehensions that a vote for Petitioner [NUHW] was a vote for benefit reduction.” The Judge concluded that SEIU’s conduct in aggressively promoting Kaiser’s unlawful withholding of wages and other benefits to the Southern California workers who had already left the SEIU and chosen the NUHW, “... interfered, with unit employee’s free and uncoerced choice in the election” of the huge Service and Technical Unit.*
* In a subsequent ruling, and on similar grounds, the same judge overturned the election of the distinct 400 worker Kaiser Medical Social Workers “professional” unit in Northern California.
In the wake of the Judge’s exposure of the illegal collaboration, Kaiser and SEIU are still at it. Kaiser is continuing to demand deep concessions from the NUHW-represented Southern California workers. Kaiser never demanded such concessions from the SEIU or the California Nurses Association (CNA) represented Kaiser workers – again trying to make an example of these militant NUHW workers and sending the message to the rest of the Kaiser workers to “stay in their place.” And SEIU is now saying, “While SEIU-UHW members have raises, paid healthcare and full pensions locked in through September 2013, NUHW faces major take-backs 18 months after a small group of Kaiser workers voted for them.” The unlawful collaboration continues!
In this light NUHW President Sal Rosselli asserted, “SEIU is already ramping up the same illegal fear campaign they ran one year ago and Kaiser is right by their side. Kaiser and SEIU broke the law, lied to the workers and cheated them out of a fair election, and now they’re preparing to do it again. The NLRB needs to clean the slate and clear the air of the illegal threats that marred the last election.”
In response to this NUHW demand, Kaiser and SEIU, the two guilty parties that broke the law (!), jointly filed motions to the NLRB in Washington D.C. to block the NUHW. Now enter the United States government, the third leg of the stool of collaboration against the workers and their new NUHW union: Judge Parke’s ruling was rendered on July 18th. The NUHW appealed on July 27th. With lightning speed the NLRB ruled August 10th agreeing to the Kaiser and SEIU demand for an immediate election which would effectively block NUHW from ensuring a fair election. This is the same NLRB that had delayed issuing its judgment against Kaiser’s unlawful withholding of wage increases and other benefits due the southern California represented NUHW workers. Only after the 44,000 Kaiser workers of the “Service and Technical” Unit had already voted did the NLRB render its decision and restore these benefits.
NUHW’s stunning legal victory overturning the results of the largest union election in the United States in over 70 years, provides Kaiser workers a new opportunity to win with the NUHW even in the face of continuing collaboration between Kaiser, SEIU and the government. It provides Kaiser workers a powerful confirmation of the class collaboration between SEIU and Kaiser Corporation. It gives workers confidence that they can embrace a militant and democratic path of unionism without losing wages and benefits.
For the 44,000 Kaiser workers, for the tens of thousands of additional California Healthcare workers who had their union seized by the SEIU bureaucrats, for the NUHW, for the working class, for all of us – the struggle continues. And a vital struggle it is. “[NUHW] helps raise up the banner of union democracy and militant struggle against capital ... for the entire U.S. labor movement, saddled with a leadership corrupted and ossified by sixty years of collaboration with the bulwark of world capitalism, the U.S. monopoly capitalist class ...” (“The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) - A New Union for Workers in Hard Times,” Ray O’ Light Newsletter #55, July-August 2009)
by MIKE S.
As the world reacted with shock to the murderous shooting spree of Anders Brevik, the right-wing, anti-Islamic and anti-left Norwegian, the Wall Street Journal was busy seizing the moment to spread anti-Islamic hysteria and rally the people for continuing imperialist “crusades” of invasion, occupation and war.
On July 23, 2011, the day after the carnage in Norway, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial entitled “Terror in Oslo.” Fanning the flames of anti-Islamic sentiment, the Journal editors squarely place the blame on “Islamic terrorists” writing, “… but in the Jihadists eyes it [Norway] will forever remain guilty of being what it is: a liberal nation committed to freedom of speech and conscience, equality between the sexes, representative democracy and every other freedom that still defines the West. For being true to those ideals, Norwegians have now been made to pay a terrible price.”
If their editorial was not enough to convince the reader that the dastardly act was carried out by Muslims(!), the “news” reporting on the same day certainly would leave little doubt. The front page article entitled “Savage Terror Attacks” included such statements as, “The attack came after a recent string of terrorist strikes and plots against the Scandinavian countries … and the arrest of accused members of an Islamic terror cell in Norway.” These comments, in the guise of news reporting and responsible editorial, were made after it was already fully known that the gunman was an ethnic Norwegian and after other news venues had already brought to light that, much like Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, Brevik is a homegrown, right-wing extremist, a Christian fundamentalist fueled by anti-immigrant and anti-Marxist hatred.
The Big Lie projected by the Wall Street Journal, is fully consistent with the long standing war-mongering policies of the newspaper. It has been a drum major for the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and to “stay the course” as these quagmires have become increasingly unpopular among the U.S. population. So too now with the military aggression against the sovereign, but oil rich, country of Libya. White, Christian and great nation chauvinism in relation to Muslim peoples and countries has been a key ideological weapon for launching and fueling these wars in defense of oil profits, oil reserves, oil pipelines, the military industrial complex and Wall Street finance capital! The constant barrage demonizing Muslims is also used to prepare the U.S. population to accept ever increasing repression and restrictions of civil liberties at home as well as to stir up anti-immigrant sentiments across the board. (Noteworthy is the fact that Brevik was greatly influenced by the right-wing anti-immigrant extremists freely functioning in the United States.)
According to the lawyer of the self-confessed killer in Norway, his goal was to incite bloody revenge against Muslim people. The end result of such diatribes as the WSJ’s “Terror in Oslo” editorial strive for the same aim – with far greater and bloodier success.
On July 25, 2011 the Wall Street Journal stated, “Brevik’s views echo anti-Muslim sentiment that has found a renewed voice on the fringes of European politics.” Fringes of European politics? How about in the pages of the Wall Street Journal itself! – the Rupert Murdoch-owned mouthpiece of finance capital.
The bloody hands of the Wall Street Journal are at work: The terrorism of the right-wing extremists like Brevik and McVeigh are justifiably condemned by most of us. But their crimes pale in comparison to the Wall Street and Wall Street Journal-inspired terrorism and bloodshed inflicted by U.S. imperialism, “the world’s #1 terrorist,” against the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen.
Get Angry, Get Active, Rise Up –
Fight for Workers Power!
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a rise of the “official” unemployment rate to 9.2% and job growth of only 18,000 jobs in June. (At the same time the May Bureau’s report of 54 thousand new jobs was revised downward – to only 25,000 new jobs.) It takes a minimum of 125,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with population growth. Economic recovery has come to Wall Street with record profits but clearly not Main Street.
In a massive blow to the equal rights fight of working women, the corporate dominated Supreme Court threw out a discrimination class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 1.5 million female Walmart workers. The Supreme Court ruled that the women did not constitute “a class.” The ruling forces these women workers who face pay disparity, discrimination in job assignments and promotion and sexual harassment at work to file individual lawsuits, impossible for workers to afford and pursue. In another example that “an injury to one is an injury to all” this assault on the rights of women will make it harder for all workers, of any nationality or gender, to band together and file class action complaints. No wonder the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups jumped for joy.
After months of savage US/NATO bombing of Libya, the U.S. government in mid-July recognized the “rebels” as Libya’s “legitimate” government. One result – the $30 billion the U.S. government seized from Libya (the largest such seizure of assets in history!) can now be shared by the U.S. thieves with the U.S.-appointed rebel government.
The Eisenhower Research Project based at Brown University released a study that pegs the monetary cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, thus far, at $4 trillion. Obama claimed only one trillion.
As Planet Earth itself is barreling toward environmental catastrophe, the coal and oil industry lobby and their media promoters have spread their lies in an effective disinformation campaign winning the hearts and minds of the U.S. population. According to a recent poll in USA Today, in 2001, 75% believed in the science of global warming, 19% did not and 6% were not sure. By 2011, despite all the global warming-induced extreme weather in the past 10 years, only 44% believe in the science, 28% don’t believe and 28% are not sure. Bad news for Planet Earth and its inhabitants!
Verizon made $6.9 billion net income in the first six months of 2011 and made $20 billion in profit over the last four years. But that’s not stopping the company from jumping on the union-busting bandwagon and demanding sweeping concessions on health, retirement and other benefits from the unionized workers. Evidently, Verizon workers are paying attention. In response to Verizon’s concessionary demands at contract negotiations, 91% of the 35,000 unionized workers represented by the Communication Workers of America (CWA) voted to strike.
|*A good bumper sticker reads, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” If you are paying attention, please send me the items that are enraging you. Thanks. |
Revolutionary Organization of Labor (ROL), USA is a revolutionary working class organization that fights for working class power and the elimination of all human exploitation. Ray O’ Light Newsletter is the regular publication of ROL, USA. We believe, with comrade Lenin, that the working class “… needs the truth and there is nothing so harmful to its cause as plausible, respectable petty bourgeois lies.” In the spirit of Karl Marx who taught that “our theory is not a dogma but a guide to action,” we welcome your comments.
Ray Light — Editor
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