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Tidbits - November 14, 2013

Reader Comments - More on the AFL-CIO; NFL Bullying; Vets and Peace; Seattle Socialists Win; Obamacare; Babies; Announcements - Organizing Walmart & Fast Food Industry - New York - Nov 19; Fighting Back Against Wall St. - NYC - Nov 25; Mark Rogovin To Be Inducted Into the Illinois Labor History Society's Labor Hall of Honor; 'Spies Of Mississippi' preview - NYC - Dec 15; Audio available -The Hidden History of Workplace Resistance: U.S. Autoworkers Speak Out;

Reader Comments and Announcements,

Re: The AFL-CIO: Choices of Perspective

You've had a series of articles on the AFL-CIO convention and their effort to reach out beyond their union and work with other organizations including non-union workers. This could be a step that creates the kind of people power we so desperately need.

There is an excellent test for how serious the AFL-CIO is about this approach -- the campaign to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We are much closer to stopping the TPP and its sister trade agreement with Europe than people realize. President Obama needs Fast Track Trade Promotion to pass these agreements. He needs Congress and the people to be cut out of the process and kept ignorant about the contents of the TPP. He can only do that with Fast Track. So far he has been unable to get a bill introduced, even though pro-corporate trade senators like Max Baucus have been promising him Fast Track for months. A letter circulated by Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Rep. George Miller opposing Fast Track has gotten lots of signatures from Democrats; similarly a letter circulated by Rep. Walter Jones and Rep. Michelle Bachmann among Republicans has also received support. There will be strong bi-partisan opposition to Fast Track.

The AFL-CIO has said a lot of good things about opposing the TPP in its present form, but has not taken a solid position opposing Fast Track or opposing the TPP. They have left themselves wiggle room, perhaps hoping for some good labor protection language. Of course, that would be only a rhetorical victory as for four years 600 corporations have been negotiating the TPP with the US Trade Rep. That means some of the best corporate lawyers in the country have been putting in sections, paragraphs and phrases that enhance their power. There is no way the AFL-CIO or Congress can save a treaty so poisoned by the biggest, most abusive corporations on the planet. AFL-CIO knows what a phrase can do to a contract, imagine what four years of secret corporate negotiations has created for transnational corporate power.

There is no question that with the uncompromising support of the AFL-CIO the campaign to stop the TPP is much stronger. In the past the AFL-CIO has provided cover to Democrats to vote for corporate trade agreements. If they do so again, we will know the statements at their convention about solidarity with other organizations and movements were just for show.

The TPP is an opportunity to form the movement of movements that can be very powerful in Washington, DC. TPP will undermine labor and workers, the environment, energy, banking regulation, consumer protection, food safety, Internet freedom and more while making corporations more powerful than governments. We can defeat the TPP and the Atlantic agreement if we stand together. Fourteen other trade agreements have been stopped in the last dozen years. If we stop these agreements it will be a victory of the people over transnational corporate power -- a victory we can build on to re-make all the trade agreements into 'fair'trade, fight austerity, push for full-employment and so much more.

It begins with solidarity, a movement of movements to oppose the TPP. Will the AFL-CIO be a trusted partner? We hope so and we hope it is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Kevin Zeese


I wrote this for Labor Day but it is appropriate for your discussion.

Labor's decline was in full gear when I went to work for the old Retail Clerks Union in that is 40 years ago...started long before Reagan.

1969 was the first year unions lost a majority of representation elections thru the NLRB....should have been a wake up call but....

Organized Labor would have only killed the messengers....the thing they do to golf on Friday afternoons....

Bill Johnston
Member-National Writers Union - UAW 1981
retired staff organizer - UFCW

Re: The Miami Dolphins Practice Bully Solidarity

The Miami Dolphins locker room bullying story (Portside, Nov. 9) is important.  How easily one could substitute so many other organizations for the Dolphins in the article's quotes and commentary.  Many of the same words and phrases could well describe Penn State football under Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky; archdioceses covering up priestly child abuse; rape, harassment, and hazing at the various US military academies; US combat squadrons in Afghanistan (Iraq, Vietnam, etc.); the Steubenville, Ohio and Marysville, MO high school football teams. . . the list goes on.  The common thread: all male clubs or subcultures that thrive on male domination.  Group behaviors based on male domination neither seek nor result in the domination of women alone.  They also seek and lead to the domination and oppression or abuse of other men.  These kinds of behaviors will persist unless government, courts, schools and universities decide on a zero-tolerance policy for these injurious, often deadly, practices.

A major reason that our political and legal institutions have failed to act decisively on this issue is that they continue to be roughly 80% male dominated.  That gender balance does matter is evidenced by the much higher level of support by Democratic and Republican congressional women for anti-violence gun regulation.

Further, the fact that the use of violence in male team sports is not only condoned but encouraged has to be seen as a contributing factor to the maintenance and "justification" of cultures of bullying, sexual abuse, violent hazing, rape, misogyny, homophobia, and racist behaviors throughout society.  While we might (however dubiously) grant that there is some social value in organized all-male team sports, it wouldn't be unreasonable to demand that football and hockey clean up their acts or be disbanded -- at the professional, collegiate, high school, middle school, and youth-league levels.

In any event, as far as football is concerned, disbanding would be the socially responsible thing to do as the societal and personal cost of head injuries continues to mount - unless, that is, we want to promote a professional touch football league.  That the "good old boys clubs" of the NFL and NHL (and their "lesser" brethren in so many high schools and colleges) cling so strongly to the "manliness via aggressiveness" mantra in the face of tragedies that have beset so many of their veteran players is reason enough to conclude that these types of organizations, like the male-dominated corporations that triggered the financial crash of 2008, are incapable of even the most basic, common-sense self-control.

Marc Beallor

Re: We Are All Wounded Veterans

What a welcome voice of common sense. There are no victors in war.

Isabel Thompson

Re: The Word "Radical" (Tidbits - Nov. 07, 2013)

Gene Glickman's apt objections to the misappropriation of the term "radical" for the pejorative description of anything extremist, is reminiscent of too many other recent phenomena, like the reactionary Reagan "Revolution" or the Republican "Red" states. And Green once meant naive, as in Di Grine Kuzine!

See "Come the Revolution":

Leonard J. Lehrman

the real word is "reactionary" not "radical."

john shelton ivany  

Re: Socialists Made Strong Showing on Election Day

I am delighted in the progress.

I think Emily's List has done some great work, but they jeopardize themselves with their advertised association with the Democratic Party.  The Democratic Party is on mighty thin ice, nearly as thin as that of the Republican Party, for the same reason: distraction from the needs and the will of the people by the corruption of money.  This is insidious stuff, but it will be overcome, as it has been many times in history.  Rousseau's "The General Will" reigns supreme, even as philosophers struggle with what it is and how to make it work.  We have to work together to show them how it's done.

Larry Sherk

It's Official - Socialist Sawant Wins City Council Seat

     "Seattle City Council candidate Kshama Sawant, a "Socialist Alternative" insurgent, has unseated four-term incumbent Richard Conlin, with the latest batch of mail-in ballots nearly tripling Sawant's lead to 1,148 votes."

Seattle PI - November 14, 2013

Re: Honduras' Economic and Social Gains Under Zelaya Were

Outstanding piece. Portside just gets better by the day.

Conn Hallinan

Re: It's Good That You can't Keep Your Insurance Plan

"It's Good That You can't Keep Your Insurance Plan" by Matthew Yglesias correctly chastises Obama for misleading the public, but otherwise reads like a slavish capitulation to the widespread but absurd notion that health care is something that must be insured.  And that more expensive insurance policies are necessarily better than less expensive ones.

NO affordable insurance policy can cover all health needs and still make a profit for the insurance company.  ANY insurance policy is a gamble with the future of one's health care needs, which no one can precisely predict.  In that sense, they are all bad.  Health insurance should be just as much against the law as slot machines and roulette. Ringleaders of this racket (along with their politicians and publicists) should be called to account. Yes, bad policies should go into the trash can, but so should "good" policies as well.  With either good or bad policies, the insurance racket unjustly profits, and under ACA is protected and subsidized by our government, raising the true cost of these policies even further.  There is no effective cost control mechanism.  No one should be forced by a colluding government to bet on their own health, much less pay a fine for the privilege of going without health care coverage altogether.

People should get whatever the health care they need, without worrying about whether their particular selection of some policy covers it.  We can get it by improving and expanding Medicare - get the Part D and Medicare Advantage privateers out of the system and drop the age of coverage to zero.  There has been a plan around to do this long before Obamacare.  It is HR676, supported by many in Congress already, and will cost less to implement than the current system.  Many other countries have such a similar single-payer system, why can't we?  Except for the United States, there is no major country where private health insurance plays such a huge role in the delivery of medical care, and accounts for such a large portion of its cost.

US health care needs private health insurance like a fish needs a bicycle.

Dave Ecklein

Re: Hepatitis C, a Silent Killer, Meets Its Match

This is great news! Gotta send this to friends w Hep C....

Linda Read
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Babies Remember Melodies From the Womb

I had a friend who loved Joy of Cooking and even more the Tony and Terri album that followed it. Played it a lot while pregnant. Years later, her daughter told her she had a secret friend named Tony Brown... go figure...

Jack Radey
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Alt Labor Rising: Organizing Walmart and the Fast Food Industry - New York - Nov. 19

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 - 6:00pm - 8:00pm

  • Moderator:  Josh Eidelson, Staff Writer, Salon


  • Sylvia Fabela, Organizer, OUR Walmart
  • Patricia Locks, Walmart worker
  • Kendall Fells, Organizing Director, Fast Food Forward
  • Amy Traub, Senior Policy Analyst, Demos

Location: 220 5th Avenue, 5th Floor, New York, NY  10001

Almost one year ago on Black Friday, Walmart employees around the country risked retaliation in an unprecedented action and walked off the job to demand a living wage. And in August of this year, fast food workers staged walk-outs in more than 50 cities. Behind this pressure on the country's biggest retailer and fast food companies are workers' groups, or `alt-labor' groups, who organize outside of traditional union representation and without the protections afforded unions to fight for better pay. And they're on the rise.

Join us for a panel on the state of `alt-labor' and what's next for two groups: OUR Walmart and Fast Food Forward.

Moderated by Salon's Josh Eidelson the panel will feature representatives from OUR Walmart and Fast Food Forward, and Demos Senior Policy Analyst Amy Traub who will introduce new research on the economic impact of improving worker pay - a follow-up to Retail's Hidden Potential: How Raising Wages Would Benefit Workers, the Industry and the Overall Economy.

RSVP here

Fighting Back Against Wall St. - New York - Nov. 25th

Fighting Back Against Wall St.
A Forum Initiated by The Left Labor Project

This weeks election results reflected years of organizing and hard work.But if recent history has taught us anything, it is that now is not the time to rest. To actually get the progressive agenda we all support passed we have to be even more active in pursuing our goals. This is why the Left Labor Project fully supports the broad coalition forming for a December week of actions to pursue our mutual progressive agendas.

As we did in the run up to the Aug.24th March on Washington, and this fall's NYC "Robin Hood Tax" demonstration the Left Labor Project will be initiating a forum on the issues the "Dec.Week of Actions" are addressing.

The forum will be on Monday, Nov. 25th at 6:00 PM at the Professional Staff Congress (61 Broadway).

Speakers include:

  • Ed Ott (The Murphy Institute, former Executive Director of the NYC Central Labor Council)
  • Prof. William Tabb (author, The Restructuring of Capital in Our Time)
  • Cathy O'Neill (former hedge fund analyst, member of Occupy Wall Street's Alternative Banking Group)

There is no charge for this event, but you should definitely RSVP to reserve a seat. RSVP Here:

Download our event flyer here (suitable as a reminder or for posting)

In Solidarity,

Larry Moskowitz

Mark Rogovin To Be Inducted Into the Illinois Labor History Society's Labor Hall of Honor (Dinner - Dec. 8; Ad Deadline - Nov. 27)

As the Illinois Labor History Society (ILHS) says:

   "Mark Rogovin's tireless efforts to preserve the Haymarket Martyrs' Monument and tell the story of the working class fighters buried alongside it is a unique contribution to keeping labor history alive. Understanding its international significance as labor's most sacred monument, Mark Rogovin continues to watch over the structural well-being of the monument, just as he did during the extensive restoration completed by the ILHS in 2011. His booklet, The Day Will Come, is a rich and detailed visitors' guide to the story behind the Martyrs' Monument and all the heroes buried in Forest Home. His work ensures that the impact on present day society of their drive for peace and justice, strong and democratic unions will forever be remembered."

But more could be said: Mark is a muralist who worked with David Siqueros; he was the co-founder and first director of the Chicago Peace museum and the organizer of the Paul Robeson Centennial Committee (which, among other things,. successfully campaigned to get a U.S. postage stamp honoring Robeson).

The ILHS dinner is on December 8 at the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 11, 3850 S. Wabash Ave., starting with a social hour at 4:30 and dinner at 5:30. Tickets are $75. (Purchase tickets here.)

If you can't make it, you can put in a 15-word greeting to the program book for as little as $15, and ad rates start at $75 for an eighth-page greeting. The deadline for ads is November 27
For information on placing an ad in our program book call us at 312.663.4107. or email

Kevin Lindemann

Preview: Anti-Civil Rights Espionage Documentary 'Spies Of Mississippi' - New York - Dec. 15

From director Dawn Porter (Gideon's Army) comes yet another intriguing documentary - this one delectably-titled Spies Of Mississippi, which is scheduled to screen at the New York African Diaspora International Film Festival (ADIFF), which runs from November 29 to December 15, 2013, in a New York Premiere.

The film is based on a book by author Rick Bowers, titled, Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement. It tells the compelling story of how State spies tried to block voting rights for African Americans during the Civil Rights era. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission compiled secret files on more than 87,000 citizens in what is said to have been the most extensive state spying program in USA history, in an effort to "save segregation."

Here's a longer summary courtesy of the film's website:

    It is the spring of 1964 and a long, hot Mississippi summer is about to explode. The civil rights community is gearing up for a major operation nicknamed Mississippi Freedom Summer.  Hundreds - if not thousands - of mostly-white student activists from the North are preparing to link up with dozens of mostly-black freedom workers in the Magnolia State to accomplish what the Mississippi power structure fears the most: registering black people to vote.

    The state's entrenched white power structure has a different name for Freedom Summer - they call it an "invasion" and they are ready to fight back.  For the segregationists Freedom Summer is nothing less than a declaration of war on the Mississippi way of life. The state responds by fortifying its Highway Patrol and 82 county sheriff offices with hundreds of newly sworn-in deputies, stockpiling tear gas and riot gear in larger cities and preparing prison wardens and county jailers to expect an influx of summer guests. This tinderbox needs very little to ignite.

    But the most powerful men in the state have another even more powerful weapon in their arsenal - a secret so well kept it is known to only a small circle of insiders: The state of Mississippi has entered the spy business. A no-nonsense group called the  Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission has quietly created a secret, state-funded spy agency answering directly to the Governor.  The Commission has infiltrated the civil rights coalition, eavesdropping on its most private meetings, and pilfering its most sensitive documents. The spies' method of obtaining such sensitive information can be traced to an even more explosive secret known only to a handful of state officials that oversee the Commission and its anti-civil rights spy apparatus.  The Commission's most potent weapon is a cadre of black operatives code who have infiltrated the movement, rooting out its future plans, identifying its leaders and tripping up its foot soldiers. Along with a cadre of confederates, the black operatives are gaining the trust of civil rights crusaders to gain intelligence for the segregationist state.

Riveting stuff here! Anti civil rights espionage that would make for, not only great documentary material, but a scripted feature film as well.

Spies Of Mississippi, produced by Risa Morimoto, will be the ADIFF's closing night film, which will be followed by a Q&A with director Porter, and a catered reception.

It screens on Sunday, December 15 at 8PM, at the Symphony Space theaters in Manhattan.

For tickets, click HERE.

The Hidden History of Workplace Resistance: U.S. Autoworkers Speak Out - recorded in Toronto - October 26

Three prominent UAW shop floor activists describe current life on American assembly lines and keeping resistance alive.

  • Moderated by Tracy Macmaster, President of the OPSEU Greater Toronto Area Council. Introduction by Sam Gindin. Presentations by:
  • Sean Crawford, great grandfather was Vice Chair of the Flint sit-down strike (1936-37) and great grandmother and great aunt were part of the Women's Emergency Brigade. Hired on as lower-waged (`second-tier') worker at GM plant in Flint, Michigan.
  • Scott Houldieson, Electrician at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant, writer and editor of the local union paper, long-time activist for union democracy and equality among workers.
  • Gregg Shotwell, 30 years at General Motors. Machine operator turned rebel. Generally recognized as one of the most articulate voices of the U.S. working class. Author of Autoworkers Under the Gun.

Organized by the Labour Committee of the Greater Toronto Workers' Assembly.

Click here to view presentation

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