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New Ground 88

May - June, 2003

Contents

Minimal Wage
Fair Taxes for All Coalition
Abolition Now
Annual Membership Convention
YDS National Conference
HotHouse Shut Down


A Dinner in the Trenches of the Low Wage Economy

by Ron Baiman

As we walked into the foyer of the Congress Hotel on Friday, May 2 to attend this years annual Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner we were met by a sidewalk demonstration and related street theatre by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 1. Workers at the hotel were demonstrating against Congress Hotel management demands to: eliminate health coverage, a 7% wage cut (down from their original 25% position!), and the unilateral right to subcontract out work. This just after an historic agreement with other major downtown hotels with substantial increases in wages and benefits for hotel workers!

Such is the world of "Low Wage Organizing", the theme of this year's Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner. This was a dinner on the "front lines" of the class struggle: a window seat view of the depths to which capital has sunk in its effort to exploit low wage and vulnerable workers in the United States in 2003.

But it gets worse! Our keynote speaker, who just happened to be Henry Tamarin, the President of HERE Local 1, the union to which the Congress Hotel workers belong had quite a bit more to say about the behavior of management in relation to the failed contract negotiations (as of May 2nd) between the Congress Hotel and HERE Local 1 (see below).

None of this was planned at the time that arrangements for the dinner were being scheduled and booked, but perhaps no better "introduction" could have devised to the balance of the evening's recounting of the life works and struggles of Sydney Bild, Bernice Bild, and Mitch Vogel, the honorees of this years 45th annual Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner.

Introducing Syd Bild

James Thindwa, Executive Director of Chicago Jobs with Justice introduced Sydney Bild by recounting his long history activism starting with taking on the American Medical Association in the late 1940s while still a medical student as President of the American Interns and Medical Students Association (AIMS). This landed him on a list of subversive organizations and led to the AMA denying him membership upon graduation in 1951. This is turn meant that he was barred from serving as an intern at Cook County and almost all other hospitals. Bild, who is white, was finally able to get a position at a "Black" hospital on the South Side, Providence Hospital, one of the few that did not require AMA membership. James also described how Syd was reprimanded by his Dean for inviting his Black Medical School friend (the only African-American in a class of 143 students) to swim with him at the all white local YMCA. Syd was also arrested in 1948 for protesting a Congressman's efforts to give money to Franco and later for trying to stop a Black neighborhood from going up in flames. In 1990, Syd joined "Metro Seniors in Action" and was key in helping organize for and draft the only municipal managed care regulation ordinance. James noted that though he was a bit "suspicious" of Syd's willingness to volunteer for any kind of "grunt work" in spite of his being a physician, in time realized the Syd's commitment was genuine and an attribute of Syd's that he came to greatly admire and respect.

After receiving his award for being "a pioneer in the fight for racial justice and an early champion of universal health care", Syd Bild took the stand and tried to describe what made him become an activist and his life of "winning some and losing some" ­ which he attributed to "Marx"! On the winning side was the time that he invited W. E. B. Dubois to speak as AIMS President at the University of Illinois. To his surprise the Dean was overjoyed until Dubois's lecture on U.S. and European imperialism, racism, and slavery. It turned out that the Dean had thought he had invited Rene Dubois, the famous microbiologist! Sydney noted that his experience growing up in a segregated neighborhood and serving in a segregated U.S. Army led him to a political awakening regarding the injustice and poverty of segregation.

 

We Are All Teachers

Next up was Charles Nissim-Sabat, former Physics Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, now patent and labor lawyer. Charles noted that he met Mitch Vogel on the picket line of a 1968 faculty strike that was lost but later led to a strong faculty and staff union (University Professionals of Illinois - UPI, Local 4100 of the IFT) that Mitch led. As President of the statewide UPI, Mitch trebled its membership and negotiated very good contracts.

After receiving his reward for: challenging students to become better citizens, and organizing co-workers to speak truth to power and fight for not only workers but the entire higher education community, Mitch Vogel addressed the dinner with a few remarks of his own.

He thanked his family and numerous comrades for getting him this far, especially his fellow "fighting 4100" brothers and sisters. He thanked his parents and Dr. Quentin Young, who as his personal physician, taught him about politics as a child.

One telling incident in early life appeared to have really set him on his life course. When he, and three other elementary school students, where suspended from Ray School at Hyde Park for refusing to sign a McCarthyite "Oath" to report suspicious behavior of friends or family to the government, they happened to bump into Milton Cohen, a family friend. Milt ended up intervening with the school on their behalf and eventually they got the so-called "Charter for America" destroyed. Mitch claimed that this incident had a profound affect on him as a child as it " taught us all a lesson about standing up for what was right and standing up for children". He ended his remarks by noting that: "We are all teachers."

 

Trouble and Its Mother

Carole Travis, an International Rep of SEIU, labor activist and attorney, next presented the award to Bernice Bild. She noted that Bernice and Syd have been partners in all that they have accomplished. While Syd was causing trouble at the medical school, Bernice was raising their family of four children in housing projects. In 1950 she was arrested for circulating the Stockhom Peace appeal in Marquette Park. When she refused to show up for arraignment she was arrested again and put in jail while pregnant. Later She was arrested for protesting against an unsanitary and abusive grocery store owner near the projects. This led her to become an advocate for low-income housing.

Bernice had been doing a lot of peace work during the Vietnam War. Later she became Coordinator of the Illinois Nuclear Freeze Campaign and was able to set up an Operating Committee in each Congressional District in Illinois. Bernice refers to the "Coalition for New Priorities" (CNP) as her "fifth" child. Through CNP she organized Town Hall meetings against the military spending and a very successful Chicago referendum to cut the federal military budget. Bernice was also a leader through her activity on the PTA in fighting against the segregationist policies of the Chicago Public Schools.

Bernice then accepted her award for her life long work of "struggling for peace, equality, and justice." In her short acceptance speech she thanked her family for allowing her the time to do this work and focused on the present and future, stressing that we are now more in danger of nuclear proliferation than ever and that "we have more work to do."

 

The Low Wage Economy, Including the Congress Hotel

After Gene's introduction, Henry Tamarin, President of HERE Local 1 then rose to present the key note speech on "Organizing the Low Wage Economy".

He noted that "the U.S. Labor movement has not yet mastered the challenge of organizing low wage workers" and that it needs to put more resources into this, to forge more cooperation between unions, and to rely more on methods that fall outside of usual NLRB procedures. He said that it is very important to gain legal status for new immigrants as low wage labor markets are rife with abuse and discrimination against illegal immigrant workers. He invited all dinner participants to a "Freedom Ride", sponsored by HERE, on August 5th down Michigan Avenue and on to Washington, DC, in support of legalization of immigrant workers.

He pointed out that low-wage employers use mostly the "stick" of fear and intimidation. Most important for organizing is to train workers to act collectively. This is very difficult both because of a pervasive "individualistic" culture and because the political arena and collective bargaining process is stacked against labor. This is why HERE, along with the SEIU and UFCW, often pushes for a "card check" instead of an NLRB process and why unions cannot just fight on bread and butter issues. In this struggle we need to remember how far we have come with other formerly low wage workers like teachers and even college faculty.

Finally, he noted that the situation at the Congress Hotel was especially bad. This hotel had been "shunned" by all the other downtown hotels who agreed last year to a four year contract with major increases in pay and benefits. Moreover, the intimidation climate at the Congress in particular severe to the extent that they had called the police and wanted to arrest the HERE workers who came to this dinner for trespassing because they had not asked "permission" from management to come to our dinner. After the workers refused to leave the dinner, management backed off but threatened in-house punishment for this "violation" the next day. This ended up amounting to a written warning placed in each worker's personnel file. This outrageous treatment of our guests is being grieved by Local 1, but we may be asking for your help on this matter in the future.

The Dinner ended with the customary closing singing of "Solidarity Forever". In my capacity as choral singing evaluator, I would give us a "B" this time. We're getting better!

 

A Personal Note of Appreciation

A final personal note on Bernice and Syd. As DSA's representative to Citizen Action and more recently to the CNP which is now a committee of JWJ, I've had the good fortune to work with Bernice and interact with Syd in recent years. Last year, Bernice cajoled me into doing a workshop with her at Jim Hightower's "Chautauqua" in Chicago. I was to lead a workshop on the relationship between values and political economics that I had done as a CNP project. This is a participatory exercise which involves having groups weight the value of six different criteria for distributing income in a utopia. The criteria are: birth, effort, productivity, need, luck, and property. I've done this many times in many different settings and have come to expect a range of weights with more "capitalist" groups going for productivity and property and more "socialist" leaning folks weighing effort and need more heavily. But this time one of the groups went for 100% of the weight on "need" and zero on everything else. I looked at Bernice and she didn't seem at all surprised. Then I realized who was in this group. Sitting in the middle of it with a big smile was Syd Bild. He had convinced his entire group to support a utopia with the most progressive ethic possible! I'm not sure I'll ever see this outcome again, but I think it speaks volumes for who Bernice and Syd are and how they have affected the rest of us.

I have also worked with Mitch Vogel over the years on the Citizen Action Policy Council. In this capacity Mitch has played key leadership roles in an exemplary fashion. I have always admired his warmth, encouragement, openness, and initiative.

A final post script: DSA National Director Frank Llewellyn came through Chicago at the time of the dinner as part of an effort to organize a Midwest DSA conference on the low-wage economy. The conference is planned for July 11 through 14. All who are interested or which to help with this project please contact Frank in NYC (212.727.8610) or Bob Roman in Chicago (773.384.0327).


Chicago's May Day 2003

by Harold Taggart

The weather and other factors intervened to diminish the turn out for this year's May Day march, but a broad variety of other offerings over the four-day period provided something for nearly everyone.

Nearly 100 stalwarts braved the downpour and assembled at Balbo and Columbus for the annual May Day march. Police were there in large numbers. Several were in riot gear. Four Cook County Sheriffs buses lined Columbus drive and sent the not too subtle message that marchers could be handcuffed and hauled away at any time.

It could be a coincidence, but dozens of activists who had been arrested on March 20th during the huge protest against the invasion of Iraq had court dates that day.

The small but enthusiastic crowd marched from the intersection that symbolized predatory colonialism and brutal, racist fascism across the Loop to Haymarket Square at Randolph and Des Plaines. Stops along the way included the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the State of Illinois building and weapons manufacturer Boeing Corp.

Since the theme was Healthcare, not Warfare, the Blue Cross Blue Shield building on East Randolph was on the original schedule. It was removed at the last minute due to its remote location. A speaker from Video Machete condemned the horrible record of the U.S. government and health care providers in dealing with the AIDS epidemic. At Haymarket Square, an employee of Blue Cross Blue Shield described the company's lucrative balance sheets and disregard for those who need health care. He said his father had medical bills that nearly equaled his income. Health care costs are rising nearly 20% per year, an unsustainable rate, he claimed. He demanded a universal single-payer system and claimed George Bush was incapable of implementing such a system. Marchers demanded universal health care by May 1st, 2004.

Food not Bombs of Aurora provided food and drinks for protestors. Potato soup and vegetarian sandwiches topped the menu.

The day had begun with affinity groups dropping banners over the expressways. The messages were radical calling for revolution and no war but the class war. There was one arrest when an affinity group attempted to destroy a George Bush puppet outside the Board of Trade complex.

Chicago's May 1st activities were dominated by the far left. That was reflected in the participation.

Rounding out the day were videos at the New World Resource Center, the first of four days of an Anarchist film fest, and a variety of entertainment at the Hot House celebrating resistances in Palestine, Mexico and Xicago.

May 2nd featured the annual Debs - Thomas - Harrington dinner sponsored by Chicago Democratic Socialists of America (see story on Page 1).

Saturday, May 3rd was a jam-packed day of activities. AntiGravity Surprise, an art group, sponsored a program titled Second Shift: The Art of Work. It included an eight-hour program of games, displays, videos, artists and poets addressing the travails of working. One wall display featured actual employee warning notices for each of the principle artists at AntiGravity Surprise.

The College of Complexes featured its annual rendition of Cell 29, a short play about the Haymarket Martyrs. Cell 29 was the Cook County death row cell occupied in 1887 by Haymarket Martyr Albert Parsons. The other Martyrs occupied cells 30 thru 36. Following the play, guitarist John Berquist led the audience singing songs from IWW's Little Red Song Book.

Salcedo Press capped off Saturday evening with its May Day /Cinco de Mayo Blast. It was Salcedo's 30th annual tribute to working and unemployed men and women.

The significance of May Day for most Americans has been erased from U.S. history as thoroughly as Old Bolsheviks in a Stalinist purge. May Day is an insight into the real America, the power of the business community to dictate government actions and the limitations on freedoms and justice in the U.S. Major U.S. failings will be corrected only when Americans know and understand their history. So far there is little sign that most Americans oppose the cycle of repeated historical mistakes.


Help Make Judicial History!

by Tom Broderick,

In the last issue of New Ground I wrote about Illinois House Bill 213, the abolition bill. For the first time since Illinois reintroduced capital punishment, a bill to abolish state execution was sent to the full House for consideration. Unfortunately, it became clear that we did not have the 60 votes needed to take the bill to the Illinois Senate. After lobbying efforts by many individuals and groups, including Chicago DSA, we appeared to be nearly 30 votes short of victory. A decision was made to delay the vote until next session. If we had proceeded and lost, we would have had to start all over again with a bill going to the House Judiciary Committee II.

This gives us about nine months to work with our Legislators. We have promoters of abolition, who need to be thanked and encouraged. We have the undecided, leaning toward abolition or toward the continued use of execution as a tool of justice. Over the next several months, these Legislators need to hear from and learn from abolitionists in their districts. Finally we have those who support the extermination of others. Changing the minds of those who believe the execution of humans is an appropriate response to criminal activity will be tough given the short time before the next Spring session. Still, they need to hear the message that state executions unfairly condemn the poor, whether or not they are innocent.

Seventeen persons sentenced to die in Illinois have been exonerated, while twelve have been put to death. Before former Governor Ryan emptied it, the economic and racial make up of death row in Illinois was transparent to anyone choosing to look at it. The inability to hire a quality lawyer was the factor most shared by the condemned. The next most common factor was skin color. Most of those on death row in Illinois were people of color, though the population of Illinois is majority white. There are statistics charting the skin color of the defendant vs the skin color of the victim. When the victim is white and the defendant is not, there is a much greater likelihood that a State's Attorney will seek execution. It is also very common for people of color who face death to be tried by a jury of all European-Americans. Is this the peer system that we claim pride in?

I'm asking for your help in the passage of House Bill 213. Following is a list of Illinois House members who are either abolitionists or undecided. I have indicated sponsors of the abolition bill. We need to encourage sponsorship and "yes" votes. Many groups are involved in the abolition movement. We need to connect with each other to present a strong front in all of the voting districts in Illinois. In addition to Chicago DSA, the following groups play a role in the struggle against capital punishment in Illinois: The Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty (ICADP); Amnesty International (AIUSA); The Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP); The National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR); The League of Women Voters of Illinois; The American Friends Service Committee; The Green Party of Illinois, and a large number of faith based groups around the state.

On Saturday, June 14th, The Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty is hosting a day long strategy session. Abolitionists from around the state will come together to plan for the coming year vis-à-vis House Bill 213. If you are interested in attending this meeting, call the ICADP at 312 849 2279. Additionally, reach out to abolitionists in your own community. We can make judicial history.

This list of Legislators is set up alphabetically by the Legislator's last name, and only includes their local district office. If you don't know your State Representative, and have access to the internet, you can find out through the Illinois Board of Elections. If you don't have internet access, please call Tom Broderick at 708 386 6007. Leave your name, address (including zip code) and a phone number where you can be reached. I will get the information to you.

 

Illinois State Representatives, District Offices

 

Rep. Patricia Bailey 6th (D)
1822 West 63rd Street
Chicago, IL 60609
(773 471 9270)
 
Rep. Suzanne Bassi, 54th (R)
110 West Northwest Highway
Palatine, IL 60067
(847 776 1880)
 
Rep. Mark Beaubien Jr., 52nd (R) (Assistant Republican Leader)
124-A East Liberty Street
Wauconda, IL 60084
(847 487 5252)
 
Rep. Patricia R. Bellock, 47th (R)
1 South Cass Avenue Westmont Centre, Suite 205
Westmont, IL 60559
(630 852 8633)
 
Rep. Mike Boland, 71st (D)
4416 River Drive
Moline, IL 61265
(309 736 3360)
 
Rep. Richard T. Bradley, 40th (D)
3520 North Pulaski Road
Chicago, IL 60641
(773 794 9444)
 
Rep. Rich Brauer, 100th (R)
E-1 Stratton Office Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217 782 0053)
 
Rep. Daniel J. Burke, 23rd (D)
2650 West 51st Street
Chicago, IL 60632
(773 471 2299)
 
Rep. Ralph C. Capparelli, 15th (D) (Deputy Majority Leader)
7452 North Harlem Avenue
Chicago, IL 60631
(773 775 5775)
 
Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, 83rd (D)
8 East Galena Blvd., Suite 240
Aurora, IL 60506
(630 264 6855)
 
Rep. Robert W. Churchill, 62nd (R)
45 West Belividere Road
Hainesville, IL 60030
(847 231 6262)
 
Rep. Annazette Collins, 10th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
110 North Pulaski Road
Chicago, IL 60624
(773 533 0010)
 
Rep. Marlow H. Colvin, 33rd (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
8539 South Cottage Grove
Chicago, IL 60619
(773 783 8492)
 
Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, 25th (D) (Maj. Leader/Abolition Bill Spons.)
1303 East 53rd Street
Chicago, IL 60615
(773 667 0550)
 
Rep. Monique D. Davis, 27th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
1234 West 95th Street
Chicago, IL 60643
(773 445 9700)
 
Rep. Steve Davis, 111th (D)
2 Terminal Drive, Suite 18B
East Alton, IL 62024
(618 259 4934)
Rep. William Davis, 30th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
195 East 154th Street, Suite 200
Harvey, IL 60426
(708 333 3028)
 
Rep. William Delgado, 3rd (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
4150 West Armitage Avenue
Chicago, IL 60639
(773 292 0202)
 
Rep. Kenneth Dunkin, 5th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
1520 North Wells
Chicago, IL 60610
(312 266 0340)
 
Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, 12th (D)
1051 West Belmont Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657
(773 296 4141)
 
Rep. Robert F. Flider, 101st (D)
132 South Water, Suite 628
Decatur, IL 62523
(217 428 2708)
 
Rep. Mary E. Flowers, 31st (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
2525 West 79th Street
Chicago, IL 60652
(773 471 5200)
 
Rep. John A. Fritchey, 11th (D)
1547 West Belmont Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657
(773 871 4000)
 
Rep. Paul D. Froehlich, 56th (R)
15 West Weathersfield Way
Schaumburg, IL 60193
(847 985 9210)
 
Rep. Calvin L. Giles, 8th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
Lower Level, Suite 12
4909 West Division
Chicago, IL 60651
(773 287 3804)
 
Rep. Deborah L. Graham, 78th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
6101 West North Avenue
Oak Park, IL 60302
(708 445 9520)
 
Rep. Kurt M. Granberg, 107th (D) Asst. Majority Leader
103 E. Broadway
PO Box 707
Centralia, IL 62801
(618 533 0296)
 
Rep. Julie Hamos, 18th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
820 Davis Street, Suite 103
Evanston, IL 60201
(847 424 9898)
 
Rep. Gary Hannig, 98th (D)
225 South Macoupin Street
Gillespie, IL 62033
(217 839 2859)
 
Rep. Brent Hassert, 85th (R) (Deputy Republican Leader)
1408 Joliet Road, Suite 102
Romeoville, IL 60446
(630 739 7063)
 
Rep. Constance A. Howard, 34th (D)
8729 South State Street
Chicago, IL 60619
(773 783 8800)
 
Rep. Randall M. Hultgren, 95th (R)
201 S. Wheaton Avenue, Suite 101
Wheaton, IL 60187
(630 221 0040)
 
Rep. Naomi D. Jakobsson, 103rd (D)
206 North Randolph, Suite 120
Champaign, IL 61820
(217 373 5000)
 
Rep. Charles E. Jefferson, 67th (D)
200 South Wyman, No. 304
Rockford, IL 61107
(815 987 7433)
 
Rep. Lovana Jones, 26th (D) (Asst. Maj. Ldr./ Abol. Bill Spnsr.)
435 East 35th Street, 1st Floor
Chicago, IL 60653
(773 373 9400)
 
Rep. Kevin Joyce, 35th (D)
6965 West 111th Street
Worth, IL 60482
(708 448 3518)
 
Rep. Robin Kelly, 38th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
3649 West 183rd Street, Suite 110
Hazelcrest, IL 60429
(708 922 0700)
 
Rep. Carolyn H. Krause, 66th (R)
200 East Evergreen, Suite 130
Mount Prospect, IL 60056
(847 255 3100)
 
Rep. Rosemary Kurtz, 64th (R)
1301 Pyott Road, Suite 201c
Lake in the Hills, IL 60156
(847 458 6644)
 
Rep. Lou Lang, 16th (D) (Asst. Majority Leader)
4528 West Oakton Street
Skokie, IL 60076
(847 673 1131)
 
Rep. Eileen Lyons, 82nd (R)
1030 South LaGrange Road
LaGrange, IL 60525
(708 352 7700)
 
Rep. Joseph Lyons, 19th (D)
4404 West Lawrence Avenue
Chicago, IL 60630
(773 286 1115)
 
Rep. Sidney H. Mathias, 53rd (R)
Suite 104
4256 North Arlington Heights Road
Arlington Heights, IL 60004
(847 222 0061)
 
Rep. Frank J. Mautino, 76th (D)
108 West St. Paul Street
Spring Valley, IL 61362
(815 664 2717)
 
Rep. Karen May, 58th (D)
210 Skokie Valley Road, Suite 12
Highland Park, IL 60035
(847 831 5858)
 
Rep. Michael P. McAuliffe, 20th (R)
6650 North Northwest Highway
Chicago, IL 60631
(773 792 0749)
 
Rep. Kevin A. McCarthy, 37th (D)
8951 West 151st Street
Orland Park, IL 60462
(708 226 1999)
 
Rep. Larry McKeon, 13th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
1967 West Montrose Avenue
Chicago, IL 60613
(773 348 3434)
 
Rep. David E. Miller, 29th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
1350 East Sibley Boulevard
Dolton, IL 60419
(708 201 8000)
 
Rep. Robert S. Molaro, 21st (D)
5838 South Archer Avenue
Chicago, IL 60638
(773 838 1212)
 
Rep. Charles Morrow III, 32nd (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
68 East 71st Street
Chicago, IL 62706
(773 224 1563)
 
Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, 65th (R)
932 Lee Street, Suite 201
Des Plaines, IL 60016
(847 297 6533)
 
Rep. Ruth Munson, 43rd (R)
1112 South Street
Elgin, IL 60123
(847 622 1048)
 
Rep. Elaine Nekritz, 57th (D)
Suite 200
24 South Des Plaines River Road
Des Plaines, IL 60016
(847 257 0450)
 
Rep. JoAnn D. Osmond, 61st (R)
976 Hillside Avenue
Antioch, IL 60002
(847 838 6200)
 
Rep. Harry Osterman, 14th (D)
5535 North Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
(773 784 2002)
 
Rep. Sandra M. Pihos, 42nd (R)
Building 2, Suite 111
799 East Roosevelt Road
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
(630 858 8855)
 
Rep. Robert Rita, 28th (D)
13543 Cicero Avenue
Crestwood, IL 60445
(708 396 2822)
 
Rep. Kathleen A. Ryg, 59th (D)
10 Phillip Road, Suite 124
Vernon Hills, IL 60061
(847 680 5909)
 
Rep. George Scully, Jr., 80th (D)
344 Victory Drive
Park Forest, IL 60466
(708 503 9350)
 
Rep. Ricca Slone, 92nd (D)
456 Fulton, Suite 150
Peoria, IL 61602
(309 673 0921)
 
Rep. Cynthia Soto, 4th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
2615 West Division
Chicago, IL 60622
(773 252 0402)
 
Rep. Arthur L. Turner, 9th (D) (Dep. Maj. Ldr./Abol. Bill Sponsor)
3849 West Ogden Avenue
Chicago, IL 60623
(773 277 4700)
 
Rep. Eddie Washington, 60th (D)
2835 Belvidere, Suite 213
Waukegan, IL 60085
(847 623 0060)
 
Rep. Karen A. Yarbrough, 7th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
1030 South 17th Street
Maywood, IL 60153
(708 615 1747)
 
Rep. Wyvette H. Younge, 114th (D) (Abolition Bill Sponsor)
1010 Martin Luther King
East St. Louis, IL 62201
(618 875 1691)


Welcome to George Orwell's Centennial

by Harold Taggart

When I was in junior high school in the 1950s, the teachers spent hours telling us how horrible Communism was. The Communists were intent on destroying the United States, they told us, because the U.S. represented everything they hate such as freedom, democracy, equality, opportunity and justice. They wanted to kill all peace-loving Capitalists including little Capitalists like us 7th graders and would laugh as they did it. Even though my school was in the middle of Appalachia, the teachers assured us it was high on the Communists target list. Communists place no value on human life, the teachers told us. They were intent on ruling the world and would destroy it if necessary rather than fail in their objective.

Under hideous Communism, my teachers said, every movement and communication is monitored. The prisons overflow. People who have done nothing are spirited away in the middle of the night and disappear forever. Executions are common and frequent. There are no rights protecting the people from the tyrannical ambitions of the government. There is no habeas corpus requirement for proof that a crime was committed. Prison labor is used to manufacture goods and provide services. Communism by nature pursues perpetual war, we were told.

It seems that Communism is dead but Orwell is alive. Now I have been exposed to the real world, which is quite different from the sanitized confines and propaganda of the 7th Grade. All those characteristics I was told were evil attributes of Communism now are called good symbols of freedom and security. U.S. jails overflow with more inmates than any other nation in the world. The inmates are used in jobs ranging from manufacturing furniture to telemarketing. Executions are common even though the victim has up to a 50% chance of being innocent.

The welfare of children and grannies is sacrificed to build more guns, tanks, bombers, bombs and Cruise missiles. Schools are closed down and prisoners released to divert money to build a giant eye in the sky called National Missile Defense. Credible scientists assure us it will not work. Our appointed president informed us that the U.S. is at perpetual war. Cameras track our movements, listening devices monitor our conversations and communications, and Big Brothers . . . I mean John Ashcroft's agents look for patterns in our purchasing and reading habits. Ashcroft euphemistically refers to his spying as data mining.

To be president of the U.S., the candidate must promise that he is willing to annihilate the world rather than allow alternative economic systems to gain a foothold in the U.S. In other words, only an insane madman need apply for the position. Faithful followers waive their weapons in the air and proclaim: Better dead than red!

Thousands gave their lives in foreign lands to prevent tyranny from invading the U.S. Wouldn't they be surprised to learn that it was growing in the back yard?

George Orwell was born on June 25, 1903, in Motihari, India. His given name was Eric Blair. He was a socialist and remained a socialist to the end. To our joy, he brilliantly caricatured and exposed the hypocrisy and contradictions of Stalinist Russia and totalitarianism. Too bad he is not around to caricaturize Bushist U.S. He died in 1950 at the young age of 47.


Representation Without Voting

by Jorge Mújica

In an ironic twist to México's to not allow the vote from abroad, the Democratic Revolution Party (PDR) launched on May Day a new campaign in favor of Mexicans abroad. Ten migrants from Texas, California and Illinois became candidates for Congress in the mid-term July 6th election.

It is ironic because it reverses the old principle of "no taxation without representation". In this case, without voting, Mexican migrants could gain representation in the federal Chamber of Deputies. Their obvious first and more important task, should they get elected, would be to guarantee the right to vote from abroad and to elect representatives in the general election of 2006.

It's just a matter of imagination, they say. Members of the PRD discussed that the Mexican law sets either one of two conditions to be a candidate for Congress: to have been born in the district for which representation is sought, or to have lived in the district for at least 6 months prior to the election. Obviously, the second requirement could not be fulfilled by any migrant, but the first one is given; every migrant was born somewhere in México.

Besides the 300 congressmen elected in the same number of districts, México elects 200 other congressmen, based in the percentage of votes obtained by each party. It's a political math formula to avoid a supermajority by any one party in Congress. Those 200 hundred congressmen belong to no particular electoral district, but to a region composed of six states. Migrant candidates did not have any problem fulfilling those candidacies, and their election would depend not on the impossible vote from abroad, but from people voting in México.

 

The Bouncing Vote

Rather than "swinging votes", what the PRD is trying is to bounce an opinion that influences the vote, from non-voting immigrants in the United States to their voting families in México.

The campaign launched by the PRD is called "Vote for Me". It mainly consists in having U.S. Mexican migrants to call their families in México and remind them that vote from abroad is not possible, so those in México should vote for the PRD since it is the party that may get them representation in the Chamber of Deputies.

It's twice as difficult, since it is not possible to talk directly with the voters, but the strategy is not new. In the year 2000 then candidate Vicente Fox developed a network of "friends of Fox" in the United Stated which paid and distributed, among other things, a long distance telephone card that before making the connection to México let you hear the candidate asking migrants to convince their families to "vote for change", according to his political slogan. In a less expensive follow up, the PRD in the USA is printing thousands of stickers for the public phones calling migrants to convince their families to vote for the PRD on July 6.

 

From the "Migrant-gate" to the Dual Nationality

But it has not been easy for migrants to get the candidacies.

Despite the ideological consensus that migrants should vote and be represented in the Mexican Congress, the Mexican parties are not ready to face the reality of such voting and representation.

When PRD delegates from New York, California, Illinois, Texas and Washington State showed up at the five electoral conventions held in five different states in México, their participation was challenged by the mainstream political expressions of the party. In a political convention where each vote and each delegate has been carefully counted, the sudden presence of dozens of new delegates threw all math to hell.

The participation of the "foreign legion", as some politicians dubbed the U.S. delegations, was compared to a "migrant-gate". There were accusations of fraud and illegality, of lack of representation, of irregularity as party assemblies and of "illegality". One convention delegate went as far as stating that delegates from the U.S. should not be allowed to vote because they were "illegals" and people that were braking the U.S. laws.

None of the arguments convinced the majority, and the delegations were allowed full participation and voting rights, but some political forces within the PRD had to rearrange their forces and votes in order not to lose candidacies they considered dealt with.

As soon as the PRD announced its migrant candidacies, the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI), which governed México for 7 decades, started its own process not to be left behind. Initially the PRI sought the candidacies of two prominent Mexican businessmen residing in the United States, but a few days later recanted because of the status of dual nationality of its candidates.

Since 1998, in the wake of the Proposition 187, México has allowed dual nationality to its citizens, but the law is unclear in so many aspects. When dealing with the Constitution and migrant's candidacies, contradictions and legal loops came into view. According to the Constitution, elected public offices should be reserved to those "Mexicans born in the territory and not holding other nationality", but according to the Nationality Law, those offices reserved for non-dual nationals should be expressly indicated. Migrants contend that the prevision may be there, but there is no law that "expressly indicate" which offices are not opened for dual nationals.

Despite their efforts and closed meetings with the PRI National leadership and a support campaign from several migrants' organizations, the efforts did not meet any success. In the middle of the debate, the PRI considered nominating the former Counsel general in Los Angeles as a "migrant" candidate. In the end, it nominated no migrants.

The National Action Party (PAN) rejected outright any efforts from migrants to be nominated. It clearly established in its rules that Mexicans living abroad are to be considered only "sympathizers", not members of the party. Thus, pro-panista migrants had no chance to be nominated.

The sole exception to the rule is a former migrant who moved to México City after 20 years in the United States, and was nominated for a city's district. Nevertheless, his candidacy created an uproar at a PAN meeting when his campaign manager, also a former migrant student from Yale asked him something in English and he candidate answer also in English. For some panistas, this was a clear example of the "lack of loyalty" and proof that once someone became a migrant, he will lose connection with his motherland.

In the end, only the PRD is nominating migrants as candidates for congressmen. It will be a tough job to get them elected, but the party expects to advance in an strategy for the 2006 presidential election when, so they say, migrants will have finally conquered their right to cast ballots from abroad.

Editor's Note: Jorge Mújica is a member of the Executive Committee of the Illinois Democratic Revolution Party. For more information on the PRD in the United States, contact the PRD in Chicago, at prdchicago@yahoo.com.


Repeal the "Patriot" Act

by Bob Roman

Since the tragic events of September 11, we have seen an organized assault on civil liberties and the rights to organize. The Patriot Act was only the leading edge of this campaign, followed by a Department of Homeland Security, increased military spending, lame court decisions allowing government spying, and plans for more, such as the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003".

Conservative apologists like to point out similar periods of repression in our country's past, some rather more severe, suggesting in the silkiest of tones that all this is temporary; the pendulum will eventually, surely swing back in the direction of freedom. The subtext of the message is that those concerned with this gathering climate of fear are basically ignorant of history, at least, and should therefore shut up.

But none of these previous episodes ended without a struggle; none of them ended simply because people looked up one day and decided, "It's over!" This episode will not end if we shut up.

One of the elements of the campaign against our present climate of fear is an effort to have municipal and local governments demand the repeal of the Patriot Act, at least, and in some cases authorize their employees to not cooperate with the more obnoxious provisions of that act.

The latter approach is being taken by the Oak Park Coalition for Truth and Justice, of which GOP DSA is a part. The OPCTJ is circulating a petition calling upon the village board to pass such an ordinance.

In Chicago, The Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights is organizing a Chicagoland Coalition on Civil Liberties and Rights which will cause to be introduced in the Chicago City Council a resolution calling for the repeal of the "USA Patriot Act". The initial organizational membership consisted of The Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union Illinois Chapter, the National Lawyers Guild Chicago Chapter, the Unitarian - Universalist Fellowship of Illinois Clarence Darrow Commission on First Amendment Freedoms, the Muslim Civil Rights Center, and the Loyola University Campus Greens Chapter. Chicago DSA has endorsed the proposed resolution and has joined the Coalition.

Chicago DSA urges its members and friends to endorse the proposed resolution and perhaps, if appropriate, join the Coalition. The Coalition also has speakers available to discuss the resolution and the Patriot Act. For more information, call 312.939.0675 or email ccdbr@pobox.com.


Other News

compiled by Bob Roman

Minimal Wage

Chicago DSA endorsed the effort to raise the minimum wage in Illinois from $5.15 an hour (the Federal level) to $6.50 an hour (see "Illinois Deserves a Raise" in New Ground 87).

The good news is that the bill, SB 600, has passed the Illinois Senate though not without a fight. The Campaign to Reward Work organized a rally on March 30 at the IBEW Local 600 hall in Chicago, headlined by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. A great many organizations and unions, particularly ACORN and SEIU 880, put in a great deal of work lobbying the legislature. Chicago DSA has helped publicize the bill, rallies and passed along email alerts.

The bill ultimately passed on a party line vote, 33 to 24. One Republican voted present and one was absent.

The bad news is that it was stripped of its Cost Of Living Adjustment and is to be phased in over a period of two years, rising to $6 in September this year and $6.50 in September of 2004. Coverage of tipped employees was also stripped from the bill, although the minimum for these employees will go from the current $3.09 an hour to $3.90. The bill is currently assigned to the House Labor Committee.

The spooky thing about legislation is that on one hand political parties matter. If the Democrats did not control the Illinois House and Senate and the Governor's office, it is highly unlikely that this bill would have moved as far as it has. On the other hand, each legislator (and the Governor) is very much an independent entrepreneur. Some accounts finger Terry Link (D - 30, North Chicago, Waukegan) as being the villain who stripped the COLA from the bill and some accounts have Governor Blagojevich as being complicit in the deed. Democrats Larry Walsh (43, Joliet, Bolingbrook) and downstate Democrats George Shadid, Denny Jacobs, Larry Woolard, John Sullivan all caused problems for the bill. It's hard to read motivations here though lefty cynicism suggests various nefarious ulterior motives. But this is also a time when the Governor is proposing to slash all manner of worthy and not so worthy programs in the name of reducing a deficit while avoiding the hard issue of taxes. It may have been hard ball horse trading. Ultimately, they all voted for the bill.

Opponents of the bill continue attempting to knock loopholes in the bill, particularly groups like Illinois Retail Merchants Association which would like to see the increase take three years and exceptions made for employees younger than 20, among other things. Any amendments to the bill at this point would also complicate actually getting the bill passed.

Please call your state representative to express support for the SB 600. A list of Chicago area state representatives is on page 7 and 8.

 

Fair Taxes for All Coalition

Opposition to the Bush tax cuts has been building though much of it amounts to damage control and maneuvering toward the 2004 elections. The latest action was a week of lobbying activity from May 7 through May 14. May 14 was designated a National Call-in Day and the AFL-CIO provided a toll free number for people to call their Senators. The number was discontinued at the end of business on May 14 as conservative activist Gover Norquist began to distribute the number to his network.

For an account of the damage controlled, you'll have to go elsewhere. We'll only note that based on past performance, it's highly unlikely that Congressional Democrats, never mind candidates for the Presidential nomination, will be able to give a coherent story of just how fiscally irresponsible and unjust this tax cut is.

 

Abolition Now

What do we want? Abolition! When do we want it? Now! Why?

To answer that last question, the West Suburban Committee Against Capital Punishment, The League of Women Voters, Oak Park and River Forest and the Greater Oak Park Democratic Socialists of America sponsored a viewing of the video Too Flawed To Fix! (the Illinois Death Penalty Experience). About eighty of us were also fortunate to hear an excellent guest speaker: Aaron Patterson, alive and free. Aaron is one of the condemned who recently had his execution sentence commuted by former Governor Ryan. Since his release, he has been relentless in his public speaking. At our program, which was hosted by St. Edmund Church of Oak Park, Aaron did a great job of expanding on the class and race issues of our capital punishment system, linking them to the problems that poor African Americans live with every day.

Too Flawed To Fix is a video about the death penalty in Illinois. It is intended to be an education tool for the general populace (as well as our State Representatives and Senators) about what's wrong with our state sponsored system of retribution by killing. If you have the opportunity to see it, I highly recommend you do. Chicago DSA has a copy and we financially supported the free distribution of the video to groups working for abolition. We want abolition because there is no justice in capital punishment, there is only more violence and suffering. Only the State gains closure.

---Tom Broderick

 

Annual Membership Convention

The date and venue for Chicago DSA's annual membership convention had not been set by press time; however, a draft budget is available. Also on the agenda for the meeting will be the Female Co-chair (one year term), Male Co-chair (two year term), and Secretary (two year term). Plans include a discussion of the future course of the peace movement. The annual membership convention is normally held in June.

 

YDS National Conference

The Young Democratic Socialists May Conference will be in June. In Louisville, Kentucky. Specifically it will be June 12 - 15. The keynote address will be delivered by veteran civil rights activist Ann Braden.

Planned workshops include Afghanistan: U.S. Occupation Examined; Globalization; Chapter Organizing; Campus and Community Organizing; Event Organizing; Propaganda; The Political Framework of Democratic Socialism; Media and Art. Panel discussions will include: Building and Working In Coalitions; White Supremacy, Capitalism and Patriarchy: the three pillars of ruling-class hegemony.

Entertainment will include: Zapat, a local free jazz band; David Rovics, radical folk singer; Anarchist Fire show ("just what it sounds like! It's really cool").

For more information, go to the YDS web site.

 

HotHouse Shut Down

On Friday, May 9, ten undercover officers of the Chicago Police Department ordered the HotHouse to cease and desist all operations, claiming the non-profit performing arts venue was operating with improper Public Place of Amusement licenses. Because of the current political climate and because the HotHouse has been a venue for many left meetings, the first suspicion was this was a political hit. It didn't help that this happened right before a sold out show of the Cuban band Orquesta Aragon.

It turns out that the licenses that the HotHouse had obtained were in fact rather more limited than its actual scope of operations, and that sometimes there were more people in the club than building code allowed: just the sort of thing to draw the attention of the police when they're operating in "cover your ass" mode after the recent nightclub disaster in that very neighborhood. It doesn't mean that the first suspicion was wrong, however.

As of May 14, the HotHouse is in partial operation as their lawyers (pro bono) and the City's lawyers attempt to sort out the boundaries of the HotHouse's business licenses. A few events are still scheduled at the HotHouse; others have been moved or cancelled. The bottom line, begging your pardon, is that a break-even operation has suddenly been swamped with red ink. For more information on how you might help, visit the HotHouse web site or call 312.362.9708.


Letters....

Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Today there is a new term being thrown around. I've heard it more often this past year than ever before: weapons of mass destruction. What exactly is a "weapon of mass destruction" anyway? How do you define it? Does it have to use atomic energy like the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki? Or does it have to be biological like the small pox infested blankets given to the Native Americans or the African Swine Fever virus introduced into Cuba by the CIA? Maybe it has to be chemical like the millions of gallons of Agent Orange dropped on Vietnam. "Mass destruction" seems to imply that it is defined by the amount of destruction it can cause. If that is the case, than what is the difference between a nuclear bomb and five smaller bombs that each create 1/5 of the destruction of a nuclear bomb? What is more destructive a nuclear bomb or an army of 250,000 soldiers? It seems to me that the US endeavor to rid the world of "weapons of mass destruction" is a purely rhetorical phenomenon. If, however, they chose to make it genuine, I would support that effort 100%. They could even go the extra mile and lead by example. Sadly, with our current government, I do not see that as a likely reality.

In solidarity

Alex Donart

 

Syd Bild

On May 2nd, Dr. Syd Bild was honored for his work with Metro Seniors in Action at the annual DSA sponsored Debs Dinner. Due to unfortunate circumstances, I was unable to make a presentation to Syd in person. Subsequently, the editor of this publication has allowed me to express my sentiments in print.

Having worked closely with Syd for the past eleven years, no one was more proud of his recognition than myself. I know that Syd has spent most of his life fighting for just causes, but I can only speak with authority about his work with Metro Seniors in Action. When I first met Syd, I was an organizer with Metro Seniors. He was newly retired and full of energy. To this day I am astounded by his energy. Syd and I worked on many campaigns together; too many to mention them all here. We forced Congressman Dan Rostenkowski to support Single Payer Health Care, forced the city to recognize the Patient's Bill of Rights and establish the Office on Managed Care to help all Chicagoans get better service from their HMOs, pressured Mayor Daley to attend a meeting of 400 seniors, got the city to develop a severe heat and cold weather emergency plan and organized seniors countless times for countless protests and demonstrations. Syd is one of those leaders that every organization hopes for. He is not only one of our most vocal and capable spokespersons on a number of issues, he also has never shied away from the menial tasks associated with non-profits. On any given day you'll find Syd mailing out newsletters or making phone calls just as enthusiastically as he participates in more high profile activities. Over the years, Syd has spoken to numerous senior groups and encouraged their involvement. He himself has gone from member to Board Member and then served as President of the Board. I can honestly say that Metro Seniors in Action would not be where it is today, or have accomplished nearly as much as we have had it not been for the endless support and boundless energy of Dr. Sydney Bild. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with this man and continues to be. I congratulate Syd and Bernice Bild for their much deserved accolades and to the people from DSA for recognizing their incredible contribution.

Sincerely,

Amanda Solon, Executive Director

Metro Seniors in Action

 

Editors Note: Metro Seniors in Action is a city-wide federation of senior organizations representing over 10,000 seniors in Chicago. Primarily, Metro Seniors focuses on health care, crime prevention, public transportation and the protection of Social Security and Medicare. Their offices are located at 28 E. Jackson, Suite 710. Monthly meetings are held every third Thursday from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Grace Place, 637 S. Dearborn. For more information contact: 312-341-4733 or 312-427-4460.


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