Tuesday, July 5, 2011

422. Emergency Labor Network: Immediate Labor Action Needed to Stop Bipartisan Attacks on Working People

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Millions of trade unionists, young people and other sectors of the population have taken to the streets in countries throughout Europe protesting austerity measures. Additional millions have been demonstrating in the ongoing worker and popular uprisings in Northern Africa and the Middle East. And the whole world is increasingly in revolt against intolerable conditions. We must resist such conditions here. Delay is our enemy - action is needed here and now! We count on our unions to act decisively and lead the fightback so desperately required.

Given the spur to get Congressional agreement by August 2 to raise the debt ceiling, substantial cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security appear certain to be enacted by that date or soon thereafter in the absence of massive and militant protest actions.

President Obama's Bi-Partisan Commission (Simpson-Bowles) decided that Draconian cuts are needed in these "entitlements," and now various schemes are proliferating calling for takeaways of one kind or another from seniors, disabled people and the population dependent on these programs for medical care. One of the politicians' favorite projected changes is increasing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. 

The takeaways contemplated for the 54 million people on Social Security, 45 million receiving Medicare, and 53 million using Medicaid are being justified by the claim that the country is broke and we all need to share in the sacrifice to restore fiscal stability. That is a giant hoax!

Tax the corporations and the rich, close the loopholes, bring the war dollars home now, and create tens of millions of good paying jobs -- which would produce gigantic additional revenue - that is the road to ensuring the funding needed to preserve and expand our rights and gains. 

The big question now is what will the labor movement do to meet this challenge confronting working people and the great majority. The choice is clear: either limit labor's protest against cuts in the social programs to pronouncements opposing them, coupled with lobbying; or combine these efforts with an all-out mobilization of the rank-and-file and our allies to prevent the cuts from being enacted.

The first option, without more, will not succeed because Democrats and Republicans alike have made clear their intention to impose the cuts, and this will not change with just a lobbying campaign. On the other hand, our labor movement has the power to turn the situation around and to stop the corporate onslaught in its tracks, by demanding "Hands Off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid!" and organizing immediately a fightback campaign on a scope and magnitude that surpasses anything labor has done in the past several decades.

We urge the following:

·        *A statement issued by the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, NEA, and other independent unions declaring their rejection of all proposals to cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.

·         *Organize a campaign to mobilize support for "No Cuts or Concessions! Tax the Corporations and the Rich!" in the streets -- where it counts the most -- and in every corner of the nation.

·         *Get the wheels rolling on organizing  an emergency march on Washington D.C., with the goal being to mobilize such large numbers in the capital as to preclude enactment of the cuts being demanded by the corporations, the millionaires, and billionaires and the politicians willing to do their bidding.

The growing anger and frustration expressed by so many workers makes clear that they will respond to this kind of program. All that is needed is a call to action, which must be forthcoming now by organized labor, which has the numbers and resources to make such a call a success. The task before us may appear daunting but united we can win!

[Note: Please take the attached resolution to labor organizations and let us know when, where and by whom the resolution has been adopted. Also please visit the ELN's website at www.laborfightback.org to sign on as a supporter of the Open Letter.]

In solidarity,
Donna Dewitt, President, South Carolina AFL-CIO
Dennis Serrette, Former Education Director, Communications Workers of America
Ashaki Binta, UE Field Representative
Alan Benjamin, Executive Committee, San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Jerry Gordon, Former International Representative, United Food and Commercial
        Workers Union 

ELN Co-Coordinators

For more information, write laborfightback@aol.com or call 216-736-4715 or write ELN, P.O. Box 21004, Cleveland, OH 44121.


Steven said...

Kamran, while I understand that such efforts must focus on the most immediately motivating issues, do you suppose the focus could be broadened at least to include overturning Citizens United and reforming campaign finance and regulatory bodies? If the scope of American protest were to rival that of the Middle East, it would aim for regime change, which my modest proposal, in effect, approaches.

What I'd really like to see: General strikes everywhere, virtually shutting down the country, until the Congress sends an Amendment to the states overturning Citizens United, passes campaign finance reform, and makes it illegal for legislators or regulators to ever work as lobbyists for certain industries. Also, if there were enough awareness that funding independent public media is also essential to breaking the corporate stranglehold and opening the way for further union gains, it would be good to include that in demands. If such a movement were massive enough, the goals could be achieved quickly.

Do you see any prospects for escalating to such a level in the near horizon?

Kamran Nayeri said...

Steven, the statement posted is remarkable because it is coming from people in the labor officialdom that for decades has supported collaboration policy with employers, "pro-labor" capitalist politicians (primarily Democrats), and the government.

The statement reflects pressure from labor rank-and-file unionists. It provides the possibility for independent class action--rallies, demonstrations, and perhaps strikes.

It is these actions, if they materialize, that will create the opportunity for the working people to discuss democratically what demands to raise, what strategy and tactics to use and ultimately, and what type of government should the United States have. During such a discourse, all proposals, including those you raise could and would be discussed.

However, we are still at the very initial stages of molecular changes in the U.S. labor movement that has been passive for decades. It will not come to full maturity overnight.

At this time, I suppose endorsing and circulating this call is a good first step combined with an educational discussion about why the labor is at this weakened condition and the prospects for an ecological socialist world where working people everywhere have everything to gain and nothing to lose but their chains.