The Attack on Ohio's Working People: What's the strategy to fight back and win?
Ohio's working people—both those with jobs, the unemployed and their families—are under attack as they have not been for decades. And this is not just in Ohio. From Wisconsin to Florida, from California to New York, employers, the media and politicians are working 24/7 to lower our wages, reduce our benefits, postpone our retirement, cut social services such as health and education, and in many other ways large and small to take away hard-won gains from working people in order to increase profits for the corporations and dividends for the wealthy.
While the Republicans, urged on by the Tea Party, have been most aggressive in attacking labor unions, Democrats have joined them in state after state in cutting budgets and laying off public workers. The slogan everywhere is the same: austerity. Bosses, politicians and the media tell us: Learn to live with less. A lot less.
Blues on the Border: Javier Batiz plays for "My Beloved and Beautiful Tijuana"
By Dan La Botz
Javier Batiz, the great Mexican rock-and-roll guitarist, played and sang last week in a concert that embodied and gave voice to everything that is most wonderful about Tijuana and the U.S.-Mexico border region. Batiz, who since he was thirteen played in the bars and nightclubs of Tijuana, performed this time with the Baja California Orchestra (OBC) before a sell-out crowd of 1,100 in the auditorium of Tijuana’s Center of Musical Arts in a concert that sometimes contrasted, sometimes juxtaposed and occasionally synthesized the styles of blues, rock, jazz and classical music. This is the Tijuana that most Americans don’t know, the border—where I grew up—that represents not a political wall that divides peoples and cultures, but two-way cultural bridge that unites them.
Batiz’s concert exemplified the bicultural world of the border—or perhaps better tricultural, for in addition to the Mexican and the American, the border has its own culture as well. Batiz performed favorites from his repertoire of blues, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll, song both by others and of his own composition, from the traditional “House of the Rising Sun” (the Spanish version), to Otis Redding and Jerry Butler’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” to his own “Montañas.” Listening to Batiz run up and down the neck his electric guitar with the greatest virtuosity one could hear echoes of Jimmy Hendrix and B.B.
Cincinnati: A Decade since the Rebellion of 2001 – What Have We Learned, Where Are We Now?
Ten years ago, after the police killing of a teenager named Timothy Thomas, Cincinnati erupted in what some called vicious riots and others a righteous rebellion. The uprising over a string of police killings of black men made Cincinnati the subject of a national discussion that took place from the pages of the NAACP’s The Crisis and The New York Times to NPR and Nightline. Cincinnati became synonymous in the public mind with racism and bigotry and the reputation lived on for years. Living down that reputation became the goal of City Hall and local business interests who worked to put the matter behind them, burying both the racism and the violence under the magnificent façade of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and drowning out the lingering shouts of pain and protest with jazz, blues and country musical festivals on the riverfront. For the African American community and for many other Cincinnati residents, the real issue has been to confront racism, to challenge the ruling elite’s power, to raise consciousness, transform structures, and shift power. We are still working at it.
The immediate cause of the rebellion was a police shooting of an African American man; for the black community it was the last straw after a series of such killings and after years and even decades of police racism and violence.
Lessons from Ontario's city-wide, political strikes of the late 1990s
ONTARIO'S 'DAYS OF ACTION': CITYWIDE POLITICAL STRIKES
by Dan La Botz
[In 1995-1998, unions in Ontario embarked on a series of eleven one-day citywide strikes against the policies of the Conservative provincial government. This article, published originally in The Troublemakers Handbook details the labor-community coalitions they put together; the cross-picketing they did of each other's workplaces; and a deal of practical advice for mounting huge strikes and demonstrations.]
Unlike most strikes, political strikes are aimed not at management but at the government. A political strike is an attempt to force the government to change some policy, or even part of a broader attempt to change the government itself. In the United States, political strikes have been rare, usually against one city government. For example, after police attacked workers during a post-World War II organizing drive among retail clerks in Oakland, 142 AFL unions and 100,000 workers declared a "work holiday," walked off their jobs, and shut the city down. After a compromise settlement, the unions ran a political campaign and in the next election won office for four out of five of their city council candidates.
The New American Workers Movement at the Crossroads
By Dan La Botz
The new American workers movement, which has developed so rapidly in the last couple of months in the struggle against rightwing legislative proposals to abolish public employee unions, suddenly finds itself at a crossroads. Madison, Wisconsin, where rank-and-file workers, community members, and social movement activists converged to create the new movement, remains the center of the struggle. In Ohio, which faces similar legislation, unions have also gone into motion, while working people around the country have been drawn into the fight.
In both states, things are coming to a head. In Wisconsin the courts have ordered the capitol building closed and the governor is threatening layoffs to begin next week. In both Wisconsin and Ohio the legislators are threatening to push the bills through one way or another. And now, in the fight to win, the movement has come to a fork in the road.
Two different tendencies in the labor movement point in two quite different directions. The top leaders of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions like SEIU have thrown their weight into the struggle in the only way that they know how. Following the model they use in political campaigns, they have reached out to established organizations to build coalitions. They have sent organizers into take charge and to reach out to communities.
The New American Workers Movement and the Confrontation to Come
Dan La Botz
February 26, 2011
A New American Workers Movement Has Begun
By Dan La Botz
Thousands of workers demonstrated at the state capital in Madison, Wisconsin on Feb. 15 and 16 to protest plans by that state’s Republican Governor Scott Walker to take away the state workers’ union rights. Walker, cleverly attempted to divide the public workers by excluding police and firefighters from his anti-union law, and the media have worked to divide public employees against private sector workers. Yet, both firemen and private sector workers showed up at the statehouse to join public workers of all sorts in what has been one of the largest workers demonstrations in the United States in decades. Only California has seen demonstrations as large as these in recent years.
Food in America and the World
Today, food production in the United States and in the world is dominated by a handful of corporations that put their profits above the hunger, the health, and the well-being of America’s and the globe’s population. Tyson, Kraft, Pepsico, Nestle, Conagra, and Anheuser-Busch are generally at the top of the list, though in virtually every area of food production, a small number of corporations control what is grown and what we eat. The food industry, of course, meshes with the banks and with other corporations, such as chemical companies and agricultural implement manufacturers, as well as with government agencies, which built the network of dams and canals that provide their water and which also provide government subsidies and financial aid.
The New Corporatism in American Politics and the Grassroots
From the Tea Party to the Coffee Party, How Political Parties Grow the Grass and Mow the Lawn
Dan La Botz
May 3, 2010
There are moments in history when driven by economic and social conditions, by war, or by political problems, grassroots groups spring up from below, among rank-and-file workers or people in local urban or rural communities. Usually the Democratic Party has succeeded in gathering up such movements, domesticating them, and gathering them into its fold and making them part of its electoral machine, to the benefit of corporate America. Overtime, however, the labor unions and the national African American and Latino civil rights groups became so tame and tired, that they ceased to provide the social base required by the party if it was to be successful in elections.
So today, the major political parties, both Republicans and Democrats, are creating new foundations and non-governmental organizations to expand the base of the parties and attract new voters. Those party think-tanks and NGOs in turn create what could be called pseudo-social movements, often describing themselves as "grassroots," though, in fact, they are created and controlled from above by inside-the-beltway D.C. organizations. These new corporate organizations, now propelled by the internet and social networking, are changing the landscape of social and political life.
The Pope, the Catholic Church, and the Sexual Abuse Controversy in Historical and Political Perspective
News reports have revealed that Pope Benedict XVI appears to have been directly involved in the cover up of priests’ sexual abuse of children. What should be clear is that the Pope’s action is entirely consistent with the religious and political philosophy that he has promoted for decades within the Church. The Pope believes that he and the Roman Catholic hierarchy stand not only above the Church and its members, but also above the world’s governments and their laws.