During difficult economic times it shouldn't be surprising that many people have gone back to borrowing books instead of running down to B&N to spend $30 on the latest best seller. photo by Bernadette Kazmarski One of my assignments as borough councilman is to hold a seat on the board of our local public library. It is a duty I sought out not only because of my belief in the importance of libraries, but also because of my fond memories of spending time in this special place as a youngster. Our library, the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, is also an ...
In the wee hours of Saturday morning I readied myself for the long day trip to Washington. I talked Debbie into giving me a ride downtown because I wasn't sure if there would be a bus at 5:15 AM on a Saturday. Fortunately, because it was Saturday, that drive downtown was only 10 minutes. Close to 180 union members and supporters gathered at the United Steel Workers headquarters building on the Boulevard of the Allies in the chilly, 48° darkness. Our group was mainly comprised of USW and UWUA members, but there were some college kids there who, I believe, ...
Each year, after the sun sets on the 14th day of Hebrew month of Nisan, Jews retell the story of the Exodus at an annual family feast. The transition from slavery to freedom, orchestrated by God's hand, is a great story with universal appeal. I never grow tired of telling it. Last week I received in the mail a Passover appeal from the Jewish Labor Committee. The headline read, "Pharaoh refuses to negotiate; hundreds of thousands of Israelite workers walk of job site." While catchy and humorous, it none-the-less reminds us of a simple fact about slavery— it's all about ...
It was a Wednesday evening in July and I managed to find a good parking space at the Teamsters hall in Lawrenceville. Inside the union hall all the windows were open; it was very hot and humid that night and there was no AC inside the meeting hall. I guess the climate was appropriate considering that our topic that night was organizing workers in Vietnam. [caption id="attachment_753" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Jackie Bong-Wright"][/caption] Amnesty International was the driver of this particular get-together because they have been publicizing the case of three union organizers who have been jailed in Vietnam. Their names are Tran Quoc ...
[caption id="attachment_1740" align="alignright" width="300"] Rick D'Loss (left) SD National Chair and Michael Mottern, Chair of YSD[/caption] Each year the Coalition for Economic Justice holds a dinner to celebrate the efforts of various groups and individuals. The CEJ is an amalgam of groups who work together on the behalf of workers, the poor, the disabled, immigrants, and the environment. I was pleased to attend along with Michael Mottern, our local leader in Buffalo. Admittedly, it is an easy drive from Pittsburgh to Buffalo (a little less than 4 hours). The weather was great. Mid week, mid day travel presented no traffic obstacles except for ...
[caption id="attachment_1515" align="alignright" width="300"] SD officers at the March (from left): YSD Chair Michael Mottern, Treasurer Patty Friend, National Co-Chair Rick D'Loss[/caption] Yesterday, the SD tabled at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. It was a beautiful day— bright sunshine, pleasant temperatures; God did not rain on our parade. Patty said that her angels were taking care of things for us. Patty flew in from LA and joined Michael and Peng in Buffalo. Together they drove down to Pittsburgh on Friday to pick me up and get some some rest before the early morning Saturday drive to Washington. We got ...
Mass transit is the life blood of any city. An increasing number of workers can't afford cars and depend on public transportation to get to and from work. Likewise for college students. In Pittsburgh, severe transportation funding cuts are likely forthcoming in the next state budget and both workers and employers are very concerned about how they will manage. Transit workers will be furloughed. And non-bus riders are worried about the impact on traffic congestion as commuters switch from bus to car. Last week, a downtown employer (Dial America) announced it was expanding its operations— somewhere else. Bill Griffin manages a ...
Last night I attended a meeting whose purpose was to establish an Our Revolution- Indivisible
group in the towns southwest of Boston. A colleague and I also hoped to find a few people who would be willing to be candidates for delegates slots for the coming Democratic State Convention. We had done a reasonable job of organizing, using lists provided by Indivisible, Our
Revolution- Massachusetts and national Our Revolution, and as organizers do, tried to predict the likely result of our efforts, partly to calm our anxieties. We set up the room for 10 people
and hoped that most of those who had promised to come, would in fact turn up.
The meeting was called for 7:30 and about 7:15 the first attendees began to arrive. We had pleasant chats with the early arrivals and a few others came in, filling the chairs we had set out.
At about 7:25 a flood of people poured in, filling the room. They came so fast that we couldn’t set up chairs quickly enough. Soon we had more than 30 people in a room that would comfortably hold 15 or 20. We sorted out the situation and started by going around the room with each person saying a few words. The message was soon clear: they were mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it any more. While each had her own concerns (they were women by a factor of 5), they were worried generally about what was happening to our country. Most of them were Bernie people but the reality of Trump had kicked their outrage up to a new level. They were ready to march, to hassle members of Congress and to work to transform the Democratic Party. At the end of the meeting I suggested that we meet again in a month and was shouted down. “Two weeks!” they demanded. On that note, we all headed for home, with the buoyant feeling that we were on our way at last, moving forward to take back our country and our Party.
Something is happening in our country. I am told that this experience is typical of what is happening in progressive meetings and Democratic caucuses throughout Massachusetts. The news from California is that the Bernie movement has moved to a dominant position in the Democratic Party. The great challenge is to organize this spontaneous movement. The social democratic moment has come; let’s not lose this opportunity.
Letter from SDUSA National Chair Patty Friend:
Congratulations and solicitation to everyone who participated in the activities of Saturday January 21st!
No matter how or what you did. From West to East and North to South (and all points in between) it was amazing. 3.3 million of us turned out all over the country. And our members, families and friends were involved all over the country.
For those of us who were able to participate, the experience was great and heartening. Needless to say, we need to keep the enthusiasm and motivation building so that this new energy can result in votes for Democrats (especially progressives Democrats) in 2017, 2018 and 2020.
The President has convened a group of labor leaders(primarily the building trades) which was announced by Sean Spicer today. We must watch and see how they might influence him, and let’s see how we might influence them. For instance, the new Administration is planning immigration, tax, and regulatory policy as we speak. And they are presumably working on their plans for revitalizing the U.S. Infrastructure.
For those of you who participated in the January 21st events, who are as smart as your phones/other computers, we hope you will write us about your experiences and/or send us your photos, or post then to our Facebook pages. In Los Angeles, for instance, in spite of impossible weather (I was actually “snowed in” for most of the weekend.) and transportation/parking problems, close to 400,000 poured into Downtown LA, and spanned a distance of miles and they came all day and into the night. Nothing like that has ever happened before.
If you have any problems or concerns regarding our Facebook pages, feel free to contact Michael Mottern. Also, I just want to let you know that we have hard cover copies of “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda ” handbook on organizing to influence our U.S. Congress-members. If you want me to send you one, please contact me, Patty Friend, in California, and my phone number is 661-245-5252. Otherwise, look it up at IndivisibleAgainstTrump@gmail.com.
Let us know what you are thinking, doing and feeling.
Yours in Solidarity,
The following is a report of activity of SDUSA members in Kansas this weekend; filed by Tim Tarkelly in Topeka. Click on any photo for a larger version.
While the Women’s March in Topeka, KS might have been smaller than others, we still had over four thousand on the Capitol lawn. The speakers represented women from various walks of life and representing different experiences: a state legislator, a Kansas poet laureate, artists, activists, scholars, and educators.
One of the most moving speeches was from Alise Martiny who spoke about the struggles she faced as a woman in the construction industry. She had to be the first to show up every day. She had to work harder than those around her and never express her complaints, just to be seen as an equal. When she considered giving up, she found encouragement in the thought that her work would make way for the women that followed. Now, she is the president of the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ Local Union #518 and is the first woman to ever hold that position.
Fatima Mohammadi spoke of the unique challenges that come with being an American Muslim Woman and how to face hate when it is popular. Dot Nary, a disability rights advocate reminded the marchers that people with disabilities “need accommodations for our voices to be heard.” Stephanie Mott, a licensed therapist and a local activist for LGBTQIA rights pointed out that the Trumpists of the world are trying to protect us from her, whether we are scared of her, or not. State Representative Barbara Ballard called people to action, citing that “service is the rent we pay for occupying a space on earth.”
My personal favorite speakers were Anaya Vasu and Sho Gasshauser. They are 8th graders at Topeka Collegiate School who already have reputations as activists, organizing for LGBTQIA issues. They spoke to the young people in the crowd, telling them how they can get more involved and to not let their age act as a barrier to activism.
It was extraordinary, especially for Kansas, to see so many like-minded people gathered together. However, while there were general calls for action and some strategies were discussed, I did not feel like we had created any kind of coalition. Though it has become a common criticism, the kind of positive spirit that was so present would have been much more helpful before election day. We left without sharing information, signing petitions, joining mailing lists, etc.
Still, I am optimistic. I do believe that people left inspired and I hope that this energy is carried into the midterm elections.
It felt like the sixties. There were the ghastly transportation struggles to get to the actual demonstration. The earnest concerns of the demonstrators were almost palpable. Above all, there was the sense of comradeship and fun. Even the symbol of the demonstration- a knitted pink hat with cat’s ears- poked sly fun at The Donald’s hot mike incident and the lack of respect it showed for women. The signs were home-made and showed a wide variety of anti-Trump sentiments, from the serious “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” to “Keep Your Tiny Hands Off My…” Alas, as I walked across Boston Common, my joints reminded me that I wasn’t still thirty, no matter how familiar the demonstration looked. But the more than a hundred thousand people on the Common was witness to a statement I have been making to younger people: the progressive movement now has its best opportunity in the last fifty years.
It would be nice to report that Trump paid some attention to the half million or so demonstrators who came to Washington to shout their defiance outside his window. Even Nixon went down to the Mall on one occasion and had conversations with demonstrators. Our new President, however, was busily engaged in his favorite game, “Mine is bigger than yours.”
In this instance, the “mine” was his crowd at the inauguration versus that of Barack Obama.
In their own ways, both Trump and some Democrats made a similar point: the election is over and the protesters should have made their views known at the ballot box. This is nonsense, of course; those very responsible people almost certainly voted and many of them probably worked hard for Hillary Clinton. More importantly, this argument obscures the fact that Clinton gave them (us) precious little reason to feel enthusiastic. Having available the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party, some of whose planks were forced on her, she managed to run a campaign that left cold a significant part of the Democratic base. Hillary and her chosen technocrats ran the kind of campaign they wanted;
the election was hers to lose and lose it she did.
Inevitably, the Pussy Hat rallies had a diversity of speakers (in the case of Boston, there were two Native American speakers, not including Elizabeth Warren). And, yes, the crowd was mostly middle class. There was some labor sponsorship, but the demonstrators were not working people, on the whole. This should not concern even those of us who want more attention paid to the needs of poor and working people. Social Democracy is an ideology of human liberation, and while it certainly includes economic justice, it also covers a broad spectrum from gender equality to equality of sexual orientation. To borrow from Sheri Berman, Social Democracy is a cross-class coalition. From moment to moment, groups of us will emphasize one aspect or another. While doing so, it is important that we not lose sight of our role of fighting against all forms of oppression.
Let’s be crystal clear: the Republicans in Congress hate Obamacare, a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act. Well, most of them hate most of it. Well, maybe there are a few good parts, but overall, they truly hate Obamacare; after all, they voted to repeal it 60 times. Then along comes the unpredictable Donald Trump and talks about a program that would have to be single-payer to be as good as he describes. Of course, he is not going to give details about his program until Tom Price, his Health and Human Services nominee, is confirmed. One thing we know about Representative Tom Price: he really, truly, honestly hates Obamacare, root and branch, down to the dots on the pages of the statute. In fact, this orthopedic surgeon has been the GOP point person on its repeal. It’s hard to see how he is going to be the architect of a health program that, we have been promised, is going to be cheaper, more comprehensive, in short, all-around better than the Affordable Care Act.
Just to show that no one hates Obamacare more than he does, Trump made sure that his first
executive order, signed just hours after he took the oath of office, expressed his opposition to the ACA. Analysts are still discussing the meaning of the order. One thing seems to be clear: the order grants the power to Federal agencies to waive, exempt or delay provisions of the law that would impose costs on states or individuals. But does this mean
that the individual mandate, requiring people to get health insurance or be fined, can be effectively ended? It’s not clear. The individual mandate has brought millions of uninsured healthy people into the insurance pools. This influx has made possible the insurance mechanism that allows coverage of persons with pre-existing conditions and that requires charging the same premiums for men and women. Without the mandate and without raising premiums, the mechanism collapses: insurance companies would have to absorb unacceptable losses or withdraw from the health insurance markets. Probably the coverage of insured people is safe in 2017 because the insurance companies have already determined the policy terms for this year, but there could be a wholesale collapse of the markets in 2018. Insurance companies like to get as close to certainty as mathematics makes possible; policy muddles make this impossible.
In the midst of this confusion, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last week released a study of the effect of the repeal of the ACA. Had the law been repealed effective January 1, 2016, the CBO estimates that 19 million people would have been added
to the 29 million still uninsured under the ACA, for a total 48 million uninsured. In a population of 271 million nonelderly people, the current uninsured rate of about 11% would rise to an uninsured rate of about 18%. Bad as they are, these are only statistics. Translate 18% into the millions of human lives, and you will see the heath care catastrophe
that looms before us.