Fair Taxes for All Coalition
Annual Membership Convention
YDS National Conference
HotHouse Shut Down
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
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.
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.
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
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."
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."
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
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 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).
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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
compiled by Bob Roman
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.
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
What do we want? Abolition! When do we want it? Now!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.