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Chicago!

11 Dec

Frank Sinatra, of course, a touch ironic in itself:

How sad for Obama!

There was a reference to Blaggerthingy on God’s Politics just before the Big News broke — anyone want to buy a senate seat? — and of course there is also that factory sit-in. All of it bad for the image of the USA. If Blaggerthingy is guilty as charged, then he has managed to screw his country’s reputation in a way that would cheer the hearts of anti-US terrorists and others the world over. Good one, Blaggerthingy! Be proud.

The God’s Politics reference is hardly flattering either, but does serve to remind us that we shouldn’t entirely judge the USA by events such as those we have been appalled by lately.

Recently, West Side Chicago folks went down to the state Capitol, seeking release of long-overdue reimbursements for services to homebound elderly – $1 million outstanding, enough to cripple a struggling community development corporation. We stood outside the governor’s door, our chant loudly echoing through the halls of the Capitol:

Blagovich, Hynes, pay your bills;
the community suffers, pay your bills;
seniors suffer, pay your bills;
you’re making hard times, pay your bills.

Meanwhile, paydays are delayed, salaries cut, and people laid off. Our controller said the state is out of money; legislators and the governor blamed each other. Nothing happens, and yet we must still provide the services. Thirty-one states are in fiscal crisis; cities and counties are slashing budgets. And they’re slashing the very survival programs for the poor.

The economic crunch, as we all know, is not only a matter of investments and credit on Wall Street and Main Street. It deeply impacts low-income families and low-wealth communities as a whole. In our low-wealth community, we don’t debate whether we’re in a recession or depression; we know we are in HARD TIMES. It is not a matter of shopping; in our community, it is life-challenging issues of food, medicine, rent, and jobs.

Poor and low-income communities are mostly left out of the conversation and the bailout plans. At least unemployment payments have been extended, but so much more urgent action is needed.

Speak out for those who cannot speak, Speak out … defend the rights of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:8-9). Right now there is only a whispered mention of the rights of the poor and needy. Who will speak? Where is the church in speaking out, joining the chorus? Where is our sense of the common good, of caring for each other?

Mary Nelson

Serves to remind us too that people of faith are not necessarily right-wing nut jobs…

The factory story has been well covered on the Net and has cheered the hearts of my Marxist friends.

Beginning Friday, around 300 workers at the Republic Window & Door factory in Chicago have occupied the plant demanding severance and back-pay owed by the company. For the first time since the birth of the CIO union federation in the 1930s, U.S. workers are occupying their workplace. As the bosses push to place the burden of the failing economy on workers’ shoulders, the class struggle is back on the agenda in the U.S.

The 300 mostly Latino members of the United Electrical Workers union began the occupation on the last scheduled day of operations before the bosses would close the factory. The company gave the workers less than 60 days notice of the closure, in violation of federal labor laws. The company reported that its monthly earnings had dropped by around 25% to $2.9 million. But the company continued filling orders through the last scheduled day of operation, which gave workers little room to believe that the factory needed to close its doors.

Republic management told workers that it was necessary to close the factory in order to get loans from its main creditor, Bank of America. UE workers picketed the Bank’s Chicago headquarters on December 3rd. Despite pledges from the bank and Republic management for a meeting on Friday with the UE local 1110 to discuss severance and other issues, this meeting was sabotaged when Republic management failed to show up. Workers replied by occupying the factory.

Bank of America was one of the many large banks to get a part of the gigantic $700 billion bailout package approved by the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress in October…

I am very much in sympathy with the factory workers in that one. Other commentators in the comments on the post I have linked to have suggested that the factory owners are in breach of quite a number of US laws as well. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath about the Revolution just yet, scandalous as this case is.

I’m afraid I am neither for Marx nor for Hayek in these matters, but I shouldn’t offend the faith of others, should I? Or should I? Apart from the fact I am too old and too uninformed, really, to say much new or intelligent along such lines. But the history of the past century or two does not encourage me in faith in either…

Jon Taplin puts a positive spin on Buggerwhatsy and other recent issues though, citing Teddy Roosevelt: A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.

…Teddy Roosevelt was right. It’s the geniuses with the college educations that are robbing us of our future.We are all aware that we stand at a seminal moment in history where the very foundations of our society are being remade. Many observers seem to think that the object is to patch things up so we can get back to the “status quo ante”. But I disagree. This is a reform moment. We must clean up the role of money in politics and we must give the regulators power to prevent the abusive use of the tax laws that Sam Zell and his genius bankers used to wreak holy havoc on their employee’s future.

Jon, a a Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, is not being anti-intellectual in saying all that, as anyone who follows his blog will know.

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2 responses to “Chicago!

  1. Benjamin Solah

    December 11, 2008 at 11:55 am

    As you’d expect, I’m quite excited about the factory occupation, but I’m not expecting it to be the spark of a revolution. Union activity has been low for ages, so it is quite encouraging to see a struggle of this kind. Their likely victory should set an example to other workers that this is the way to win.

     
  2. Neil

    December 12, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    There’s a more recent post on God’s Politics on this: Chicago Sit-in Victory: ‘Yes We Can’ by Mary Nelson.

    The action came to national consciousness when politicians and community leaders (even President-elect Obama) affirmed workers were due severance and vacation pay. The marginalized workers got relief, an amazing organizing experience. They, and many others, now have a sense that something can be done; it is not hopeless. This is the same kind of audacity of hope engendered with the seemingly hopeless candidacy of Barack Obama. Despite the difficulties of the times, there is a crazy sense of hope and possibility in the air …things can change and we can be a part of the change.

     
 
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