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New Ground 94

May - June, 2004


  • The Dump Bush Dinner by Ron Baiman
  • Health Care Justice Passes by Bob Roman
  • Wal-Mart Plays Divide and Conquer but Resistance Solidifies for May 26 Showdown at City Council by Ron Baiman
  • Finnish Americans and the Great Dissent by Will Kelley
  • Other News compiled by Bob Roman
  • May Day Picnic
    Oak Park Progressive Alliance
    Peace Fair
    Boycott Treasure Island & Potash Brothers
    Save the Date: June 15
    Bridging the Gap: Health Care for All
    Fair Taxes for All Coalition

    The Dump Bush Dinner

    by Ron Baiman

    From Kim Bobo's opening song: "Let's dump Bush! (3 times), Yes! (3 times); Because he's got to go now! (3 times)," to honorees Lynn Talbott's and Eliseo Medina's plea's to get out the vote as the future of the country is at stake, to Jan Schakowsky's rousing anti-Bush address, there was no doubt in anyone's mind about what the 46th Annual Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner was all about. Coming on top of the prison abuse scandal and right after a month with the highest U.S. casualty rates in Iraq since the now infamous "mission accomplished" statement, the sense of outrage and dismay at what the Bush regime has done (and this is just regarding Iraq!) could not have been higher.

    The outrage propelled an upbeat and rousing dinner, replete with one-liners, and a sense of historical continuity, from the valiant struggles of the honorees in the past to the continued efforts of the present and the future.

    After Kim Bobo's introduction, George Romney, Secretary Treasurer of UNITE!, got up to present the Debs - Thomas - Harrington award to Lynn Talbott, an International Vice President and Manger of the Chicago and Central States Joint Board for UNITE!. Romney noted that UNITE!, which was formed from the merger of ACTWU and ILGWU, was about to "marry" again with HERE. He noted that Lynn had worked for three decades as an organizer and staff leader at UNITE! and had been a major force in focusing UNITE!'s efforts on organizing, most recently at Cintas, the largest uniform laundry firm in the U.S. Lynn Talbott, is a strong person, who speaks out, and embodies the spirit, ideas, and aspirations of Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas, and Michael Harrington.

    Lynn Talbott accepted the award on behalf of her "brothers and sisters at UNITE!". She also congratulated Eliseo Medina and recognized Jan Schakowsky. She noted that Kim Bobo's Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice has made "four hits" on Cintas and that their "enormous moral authority" had a major affect on management. She also recognized the picketing Congress Hotel workers from HERE Local 1 who were present at the Dinner. The Congress Hotel strike began shortly after last year's dinner and is ongoing.

    Lynn Talbott noted how proud she was of UNITE!'s organizing efforts that have extended to 80,000 new workers in the last six years including 40,000 laundry workers in 1999. The union has had to step up to the challenge of organizing new sectors because of the rapid decline in textile workers in the U.S. They met the challenge by going after the "biggest baddest" employer in the uniform laundry industry: Cintas.

    UNITE! is also a very politically active union. Members were just up at a regional political action conference at Lake Geneva over the weekend to dump Bush and elect Barack Obama. They also came out against the war in Iraq a year ago in a unanimous decision by the general executive board. She noted that as a "Southern gal" whose family had a long and illustrious military history, she understood what a difficult decision this was for many union leaders. Now, she said, nothing has changed "for those of us who organized" USLAW (U.S. Labor Against the War), except that 800 U.S. soldiers have been killed and about 4200 grievously wounded along with thousands of Iraqi civilians. In the midst of this, Bush has had the gal to cut veterans benefits by $25 billion while paying private contractors in Iraq upward of $150 billion. Talbott finished by saying that: "we need the biggest turnout in history to defeat Bush." She also thanked DSA and urged support for DSA.

    Bobo next recognized dinner attendee Christine Cegelis running against Henry Hyde in the 6th Congressional District and Dr. David Gill running against Tim Johnson in the 15th. She also made a point of recognizing Bob "invisible" Roman, CDSA Treasurer and long time leader who, along with the illustrious Carl Shier, is the primary force and source of much of the labor that makes the Dinner happen.

    DSA National Director Frank Llewellyn congratulated the two distinguished trade union honorees and urged that "there is no higher priority than defeating George Bush". Llewellyn then spoke about DSA's low-wage economy, anti-Wal-Mart campaign which is at a critical moment in Chicago (see page 8). Frank noted that Wal-Mart would be the 19th country in the world in terms of GDP and is China's 8th largest trading partner. Wal-Mart is also the largest employer in the U.S. and the largest private employer in Mexico. The company is viciously anti-union and has been charged with numerous labor rights abuses. It also, by relentless squeezing of supplier prices, forces them to move production off-shore.

    Bobo took over again with a new song: "Wal-Mart Dump! (3 times)". She next introduced Carl Shier one of the founders, the driving spirit and key organizer of the dinner which was organized in 1958 and whose first honorees were: Norman Thomas and A. Philip Randolph. Carl Shier said that they had to get out "the FBI file" to get this historical record straight. Shier joined YPSL (Young People's Socialist League) in 1931, then later the UAW where he served as a long-time organizer and leader until retirement and beyond! In 1982 he was a Dinner honoree.

    Carl Shier introduced the second honoree, SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina. Shier first met Medina when Medina was a young man sent to Chicago by Cesar Chavez to organize the UFW's grape boycott in Chicago on $5 dollars a week. Medina worked miracles (including roping young suburban women like Jan Schakowsky into the effort). He then worked for the CWA in Texas and finally joined the SEIU in Los Angeles where he organized health care workers and recently, in a strike that inspired the nation and led to victories in other cities including Chicago, the janitors. Shier noted that with leaders in AFSCME and UNITE!, Medina had changed the AFL-CIO immigration policy to support immigrants and helped launch the recent "freedom ride" for immigrant rights.

    Eliseo Medina accepted the award saying he had come (on a very tight schedule, having had a Executive Board meeting that day) "because Carl asked me," and noted that Carl was one of the first people he met when he first came to Chicago 37 years ago.

    He agreed with Lynn Talbott that the election was "not just about who heads the country, but where is the country headed?" and that what's happening with the war in Iraq is tragic for Iraq and the people of the U.S.

    He had come to Chicago with $20 and a bag of UFW buttons and was told that he should live off the proceeds of $1 button sales. Carl Shier took him in as did host of other local activists and local labor lawyers who bailed him out of jail. These folks made it possible for the farm workers to win respect and dignity through a union contract. But we now have a "Wal-Martization" of the U.S. economy with 44 million without health insurance. Many need 2-3 jobs to keep families fed, including janitors who work all their lives for basic physical needs and have no time to emotionally nurture their children. This is "robbing the next generation of the love that they need." This election is not about the candidates but about the dreams and hopes of our children. We need to make sure that America lives up to its promise not to turn over a worse world to our children. Eliseo finished with the words: "I am with in you in our common struggle for justice ­ si se puede!"

    Kim Bobo next introduced key note speaker Jan Schakowsky as a "consumer advocate" for 20 years and one who comes from the movement and unlike many, hasn't forgotten it.

    Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky proceeded to deliver a rousing and funny political speech that capped the evening by charging up the assembled onward and forward to a "must win" victory against the Bush regime.

    She started out by noting that she was a UNITE! member and proud to be with her brothers and sisters in UNITE! honoring Lynn Talbott, who joins a long line of outstanding women union leaders such as Joyce Miller (a leader in CLUW and a past Dinner Honoree). She also noted that one of her earliest organizing experiences was a result of Eliseo Medina's recruiting of two young women from the suburbs (herself and Jackie Kendell) for the grape boycott.

    She went on to relate a humorous story regarding a meeting with Bush on the situation in Haiti demanded by the Congressional Black Caucus to which she was invited because of her strong interest in the issue. Bush finally, at the insistence of caucus members, made it to this meeting and spent enough time to display his ignorance of the issue. He noticed Jan, a lone white face, and seemed to "jump back" when he saw her button. Osama? No, Mr. President. Barack Obama, and you'll be hearing from him when he becomes the Senator form Illinois.

    Another "inside the beltway" story described a pro-forma Christmas Card that she had received from Vice-President Dick Chaney and his wife Lynn inscribed with the following chilling aphorism: "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aide?"

    Schakowsky went on to express outrage at the prison abuse scandal noting that: General Myers did not have a chance to read the Taguba report and the Secretary of Defense hadn't read it until it worked its way up the chain of command because: "it didn't have any pictures". She also noted Condoleezza Rice's bureaucratic disassembling as when she answered a query about whether, in retrospect the reasons for the war seemed justified, by stating that their was evidence of a Saddam link to 9/11 in an "operations or directional sense" and that Saddam had a "penchant" for WMD's, and that when asked about the "chain of command" for the Abu Ghraib prison, Rumsfeld responded with an "I'll get back to you".

    Schakowsky pointed out that the only real reason left to be in Iraq was to "liberate" the country dictatorship, but that the prisoner abuse scandal, indicating that "for-profit companies" had been involved in torturing prisoners in the very same prison used by Saddam for torture, had completely undermined even this last rationale.

    She noted that as there is no bottom, including stealing elections (as we know from 2000) to how low the Bushies will go, we all need to have a quiet person to whom we can whine about John Kerry "late at night" but that we need to support Kerry wholeheartedly during the day. This election goes beyond candidates. Democracy is at stake and elections are won "on the ground". We need to get out the bodies and we need to be the messengers.

    Schakowsky concluded with a story. When (DSA Honorary Chair) Barbara Ehrenreich and David Shipler were at a book signing for their well-known books on the state of the working poor right before the 2000 election. Ehrenreich was asked: 'What did they [the poor] say about the election?". She responded that "it never came up".

    Schakowsky's conclusion: people vote when they feel that they have some have control over their lives. We, the labor movement, CDSA, etc., need to give people this sense of empowerment and get a large fraction of these people to the polls.

    Exhausted by the fervor and fire of the evening, our singing of "Solidarity Forever", led by Kim Bobo, was a bit muted in sound but not in spirit. We left the Dinner with a mission.

    Health Care Justice Passes

    by Bob Roman

    When last we saw the Health Care Justice Act (New Ground93), it was poised to pass out of the Illinois Senate Insurance and Pensions Committee and from there, clear sailing to the Governor's desk. Would that life be so simple!

    The villain in this "Perils of Pauline" saga turned out to be the insurance industry and their chief Democratic spear-carrier, Senator Denny Jacobs from the Quad Cities area (36th District). Despite the concession of amending the bill to his stated objections and an apparent agreement by all involved, the next Committee meeting found Committee Chair Senator Jacobs obstinately uncooperative. This left the sponsors with a choice. They had just, but only just, enough votes to get the bill out of committee without Jacobs' cooperation; one missing or double-dealing Senator and the cards would collapse. Or they could abandon the Senate version of the bill, shift to the House version of the bill and prevail upon Senate President Emil Jones to assign the House bill to a different Committee when it reached the Senate. They decided upon the latter course. As New Ground goes to press, it seems to have worked; the full Senate passed HB2268 on Wednesday, May 19.

    Those tuning in late may wonder why this bill is important. The Health Care Justice Act, in its original form, mandated the Illinois General Assembly and the Executive Branch to set up a Commission that would write a universal health care bill for the State that the General Assembly would then be obliged to pass. This last step was nominally Senator Jacobs' objection, and the bill was amended to allow the General Assembly to pass, delay or decline the bill. Instead of being a done deal, universal health care now became a "fast tack" item.

    Unfortunately, the bill suffered additional damage in the process getting through the Senate, most of it rather subtle changes in the General Assembly's "findings" to the Commission (now renamed to a Task Force) that in effect make it a possibility that whole exercise will end up a breath of hot air. This is not an inevitable outcome. It does mean that Democrats need to be in control of the both Houses and the Governor in 2006. It does mean that advocates of universal health care need to remain active and vocal on the issue. And it would be helpful if Senator Jacobs found a new career. He was the only Senate Democrat to vote against the bill; no Republicans voted for it.

    The next step is for the Illinois House to consider the Senate amendments. If they agree, the bill goes to the Governor; otherwise, there is an intermediate stop in a conference committee. The Campaign for Better Health Care seems to be more than professionally optimistic about these next steps, but I'd wait until the Governor is handing out pens before celebrating. We should know by the next issue of New Ground. Stay tuned.

    Wal-Mart Plays Divide and Conquer but Resistance Solidifies for May 26 Showdown at City Council

    by Ron Baiman

    Courtesy of a Wal-Mart "divide and conquer" strategy progressive forces lost to Wal-Mart at the most recent April 21, 2004 City Council Zoning Board hearing. However, through the work of four alderpersons, we were able to gain a delaying victory at a later May 5 Chicago City Council meeting. In the mean time the intense organizing efforts of the opposition appear to be having an effect. James Tindwa, Executive Director of JWJ, one of the leaders of the opposition claims that at this point (May 19) to the best of his knowledge about 18 Alderpersons are firmly opposed with another 7-8 on the fence.

    The key issues are: a) How does the City think it will be able to induce the notoriously exploitative and self-interested Wal-Mart company, to become a responsible community business if it gives up the only leverage it has with the company, i.e. zoning regulation? b) Why do the major media continue to talk about the "jobs" that Wal-Mart will bring to the community when the only economic impact study that has been done (for the west side store) indicates that Wal-Mart will cause a net elimination of jobs?

    Two recent letters to the editor in the Sun Times (5/18 and 5/12) and a lengthy article in the New York Times (5/6) have made this point, but the reporting continues to pitch this as a battle between unions and the community. The Chicago Tribune in particular has not printed anything refuting this misleading representation.

    In a earlier hearing, the South Austin Coalition united with Jobs with Justice, ACORN, Representatives of Congressman Danny Davis's Office, UFCW 881, the Center for Labor and Community Research (CLCR), and the University of Illinois Center for Urban Economic Development (UIC-CUED), to defeat a rezoning that would allow a new Wal-Mart at 1657 Kilpatrick Ave. (near Cicero and North) on the west side of Chicago. Zoning Committee Chair Alderman Banks was able to lead a coalition of Alderpersons who made Wal-Mart's anti-labor, anti Democratic party politics and contributions enough of an issue to sway a majority of the Committee against the change even though Austin Alderwomen Mitts was for it. This meeting brought a massive outpouring of ACORN, JWJ, Chicago DSA, and other activists to testify against the zoning change. The show of opposition was enough to induce the Committee to defer the vote in spite of Mitt's support. When the zoning committee realized that they had (mistakenly?) approved a zoning change for a south side Wal-Mart, the full city council voted this down too in a later meeting.

    UFCW 881 had commissioned a study by UIC-CUED of the economic affect of a West Side Wal-Mart. The study showed that though Wal-Mart claimed that it would bring 250 new jobs into the community, a careful look at the local retail market and Wal-Mart's higher sales/employee ratio showed that Wal-Mart would actually cause a net loss of about 65 jobs to the community. Yours truly was one of the co-authors of this report (on the web at: http://www.uic.edu/cuppa/uicued/Publications/RECENT/wal-martreport.pdf) and was one of the many activists dismayed that this message did not get through. The media played the story as labor against the community.

    At the recent zoning hearing Mitts had mobilized the local Black Churches to come out in support of Wal-Mart arguing that they wanted the jobs and cheap prices. These folks unfortunately did not believe that Wal-Mart would probably result in a loss of jobs and local retailing. In fact a brand new mall was just developed a few blocks from the proposed Wal-Mart site. The health of stores in this "Washington Square Mall" and in the slightly further away Brick Yard Mall will be jeopardy once this Wal-Mart is in place. The issue was instead framed as outside labor (led by mostly white labor leaders) against the local community. Chirag Mehta from UIC-CUED presented the above report but to no avail. It seemed that not even our labor allies could get the loss of jobs message out to the media and the public. The reporting was sufficiently superficial that some reports (ABC News in particular) reported that Wal-Mart had signed a Community Benefits Agreement when in fact this was one of the demands of the "Chicago Alliance for Justice at Wal-Mart" (see http://www.laborgroups.org/WalmartCommunityBenefitsAgreement.pdf) that Wal-Mart has refused to agree to in writing.

    At least a few in the City Council must have been listening as the Wal-Mart steamroller was at least temporarily halted at the May 5th City Council meeting when 4 Aldermen took the initiative to put the zoning request on further hold so Wal-Mart's business practices could be further considered. The next vote on the issue is scheduled for May 26.

    Finnish Americans and the Great Dissent

    by Will Kelley

    Blueberry God: The Education of a Finnish-American, by Reino Nikolai Hannula. San Luis Obispo: Quality Hill Books, 1979.

    Why bring up a book whose third printing was in 1990? Because we are in danger of forgetting that progress depends on people who try to push society toward a better world. Not only does progress not happen automatically, without a deliberate effort an entire nation can find itself in a worse situation than it was just a generation before. And for that effort it helps to have what the Finns call "Sisu," an untranslatable word that connotes "special strength and stubborn determination to continue and overcome in the moment of adversity. . . . a combination of stamina, courage, and obstinacy held in reserve for hard times."*

    Those who write the histories shape the memories that later generations call on to make their own plans, and it was a refusal to be forgotten that led to the book. Hannula wanted to see how the large Finnish population of Gardner, Massachusetts had been treated in a recent history of the town. He found that, as far as the author and local Committee for Historical Research was concerned, they didn't exist. Nor did the large labor movement that had, among other things, organized the local furniture workers union. Hannula found that, though they had been central in the years between 1890 and 1925, the Finnish-American labor and socialist movements were generally ignored. Outraged at the thought that a history could be erased so easily, he wrote his own, though he was not a professional historian. Then he published it.

    In some ways Hannula needn't have worried. Others were already working on the story, and in the years immediately following his own research a number of others, all scholarly works, appeared in both Finland and the U.S.**

    Hannula, though, has given us something different, a work that is part memoir of a childhood in the 1920s and 30s, and part serious historical analysis. Why, he asks, were so many Finnish immigrants and their children attracted to socialism? After all, Gus Hall, long the leader of the Communist Party U.S.A., was a Finnish-American. Yet why did this intense involvement fade so quickly?

    The book builds in a trajectory that leads from the memories of a small boy who grew up in an intensely Finnish environment to a survey of the many things Finns did to try to find a place for themselves in the United States. It is as vivid a portrait of the immigrant struggle as one could want, even if it involves blueberry farms, carbonated beverage companies, boarding houses, and restaurants rather than the current media favorite, organized crime. Everywhere, a distinctly Finnish sense of communal support provides a backdrop for what he experiences, beginning with a tangible link between the Old Country and the New: picking blueberries.

    Once his sensibility has enlarged to an understanding of a strike that was needed to organize a local furniture factory, the transfer of Finnish communalism to the socialist movement, followed by the gradual withering away of most of these organizations, becomes itself the topic of the book.

    Hannula has a thesis that deserves consideration. America in the 1880s, he argues, was different than the nation it had become a hundred years later. The dominant ideology of the day was Social Darwinism, a theory that justified the grinding exploitation of anyone who didn't own property. It was, of course, most agreeable to those who controlled the most wealth, and who saw to it that Social Darwinism was given wide exposure. At this point, Hannula argues, America could have gone the way of Brazil. Instead, the response of ordinary people came through a wide-ranging, broad-based movement he calls the Great Dissent.

    The Finns who moved to the United States, long dominated by Swedish landlords, already had an understanding of the importance of community to their survival. (To see how hard 19th Century Swedish proprietors could be on tenants and employees, find a copy of the film The Immigrants.) As the Finnish immigrants found themselves in a country where there was no longer a frontier with land to claim, but the same exploitative practices that had been used by American manufacturers for a hundred years, they turned to the Lutheran Church. The Church, though, let them down by taking the side of their oppressors. From Massachusetts to Minnesota, Finns responded by leaving the church in droves, pouring their communal tradition instead into the cause of various socialisms.

    Hannula uses a portion of the book to sketch out the diversity of Finnish American reactions to their new country. Then he turns to the final puzzle: What Happened? He suggests that two huge fractures split the socialist movement so badly that it lost its power to organize large numbers of Finnish Americans, especially once social policies had altered to accommodate the Great Dissent, first with Progressive Era reforms, then with the New Deal. First, followers of the IWW withdrew from electoral politics, weakening the base for legislative change. Second, the Communist Party undermined all democratic socialists. In a final blow, in 1930 the Finnish Cooperative Movement adopted political neutrality and a mass consumer orientation, abandoning its previous commitment to working toward socialism through cooperative labor.

    The Great Dissent profoundly changed the United States, and Hannula makes clear how much we owe to the struggle. Though few of the explicit policy goals of the more radical parties were attained as such, the pressure they were able to mount forced the government to respond, at all levels, and we all continue to benefit from it. Hannula wrote the book to make it harder for others to make us forget, and in this he succeeds. Some of the "modules" of his argument do not flow perfectly into each other since he fails to remind us, at times, where we are in his narrative. Still, everything is there, and in a way brought more vividly to life than in conventional histories.

    Look for the big blue book with "SISU" on the cover.


    *As summarized by Kara Kivi Giles; http://leep.lis.uiuc.edu/publish/cook/sisu.htm.

    **See The Finn Factor in American Labor, Culture and Society, by C. Ross (New York Mills, Mn.: Parta Printer Inc., 1978); Auvo Kostiainen, The Forging of Finnish-American Communism, 1917-1924: A Study in Ethnic Radicalism (Turku: Turun Yliopisto, 1978); Finnish-Americans & International Communism: A Study of Finnish-American Communism from Bolshevization to the Demise of the Third International, by David John Ahola (Washington: Univ. Press of America, 1981); and Immigrant Socialists in the US: the Case of Finns & the Left, by Peter Kivisto (Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ, 1984).


    Editor's note: Because Blueberry God was privately printed, it will be one of those wonderful serendipitous experiences if you should find it in a used bookstore. You will find used copies for sale on the web. When Reino Hannula died on September 7, 2001, the remaining new copies of his book were donated to the New World Finn Bookstore, PO Box 432, Cedar Grove, WI 53013, where copies are available at $8 each, postpaid. The New World Finn Bookstore also has a web page at http://www.kantele.com/nwfwebsite/bookstore/bookstore.html. Thanks to comrade Niilo Koponen of Alaska DSA for alerting us to this book.

    Other News

    compiled by Bob Roman


    May Day Picnic

    The UofC YDS chapter held a weather delayed May Day Picnic on Sunday, May 9. While most of the rest of the city was pounded by extravagant thunderstorms, they drifted around the Quad until the event had been over for some time. Some two dozen folks attended the event though generally there were only a bit less than a dozen people at any one time. Except for the context and for informal conversation, it was a largely apolitical affair: just fun.


    Oak Park Progressive Alliance

    In February of this year, representatives from several groups gathered at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Oak Park, Illinois, to explore the idea of creating an umbrella organization with a progressive focus. The second meeting was in early May and there is still much to be considered and resolved regarding identity, goals, and nuts and bolts operation.

    Carol Gulyas, of the Oak Park Coalition for Truth and Justice (OPCTJ), is the driving force behind the idea. The OPCTJ was formed in opposition to our Federal Government's steady movement towards war in the Middle East. They have done community outreach on the war, staged an ongoing peace vigil at First United Church of Oak Park and with others, successfully worked to have a resolution against the USA PATRIOT Act passed by the Oak Park Village Board.

    Recognizing the spectrum of groups with some element of a progressive agenda in Oak Park, Ms. Gulyas approached Galen Gockel, another member of OPCTJ and an elected member of the Village Board of Oak Park with the idea of creating some over-arching organization to enhance the progressive voice in the Oak Park area.

    The first meeting showed interest from quite an array: organized labor; a homeless advocacy organization; death penalty abolitionists; peace workers; civic and political organizations; a racial dialogue group; a lesbian/gay association; church action groups and the Greater Oak Park Democratic Socialists of America. We are tentatively called the Progressive Alliance. Although almost all of those in attendance are from Oak Park, our intent is to branch out as we gain footing.

    The stated purpose: Achieve sufficient unity and strength to influence the public discourse, in order to effect social change in keeping with progressive principles.

    Tom Broderick


    Peace Fair

    The first anniversary of President Bush's declaration of "Mission Accomplished" on May 1 was marked by a Peace Fair at College of Du Page in Glen Ellyn, attended by well over 300 people. It was planned by the Education Work Group of the West Suburban Faith-based Peace Coalition (WSFPC), chaired by DSA member, Gloria Hannas. Other peace groups participating were the Du Page Peace Through Justice Coalition, DAWN (Du Page Against War Now) and Pax Christi. These groups held a morning Vigil on Roosevelt Road north of the campus, pointing people toward the Fair, which began at 1:00 p.m. The Program Book listed 37 contributing organizations.

    A major participant was the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which provided an exhibit from April 28 through May 4 in the Student Resource Center calling attention to the Iraq War. Named "With Eyes Wide Open", it consisted of over 500 pairs of military boots standing along both sides of a hallway, representing the deaths of American troops. The number of deaths was updated daily to well over 700 by the time the exhibit closed. There was also a continuing TV program with items relevant to the war, a plow surrounded by bullet cartridges symbolizing thousands of Iraqi deaths, and large signs showing quotations for the war from the Bush Administration, and others against the Iraq war as well as war in general as a tool of foreign policy. While COD student attendance at the Fair was not large, partly because it was held on a Saturday, many of them took in the exhibit during the week, expressing appreciation for what it taught them. Their lack of knowledge on the subject showed a need to get around American mass media and their sound bite approach to news.

    Michael McConnell, leader of the Midwest AFSC, opened the Fair with his address, "Crossing the Line" to a standing room only crowd. Twenty six 45 minute workshops were held over a three hour period, dealing with various aspects of peacemaking. Many other organizations staffed exhibit tables for their groups. A positive result was getting acquainted with people from those groups and possibilities of future networking.

    An important piece of the Fair was the collection of Health Kits by the Humanitarian Relief Work Group of the Peace Coalition. About 500 direct mail advertising letters that included specific instructions for making such a kit had been mailed. Many contributed cash for sending the kits to war torn areas through the United Methodist Committee of Relief.

    A catered dinner at 5:30 p.m. was attended by 83, offering a time for reflection and sharing. After the dinner about 65 people remained for an evening Peace Concert. Music was provided by the guitar and voice of Dave Martin, who put in more hours than many realized in preparation for the fair as a leader of the Faith-based Coalition. Other music came from a group of three singers and instrumentalists, called "Voices". Their songs helped end the day on a note of celebration. That a sizeable group remained for an eight hour afternoon and evening demonstrated a strong desire to advocate for peace. Attendees were clearly ready to work for the day when it can be said of Peace, "Mission Accomplished".

    Rev. Gene Birmingham


    Boycott Treasure Island & Potash Brothers

    Local 881 UFCW members employed at Treasure Island Foods and Potash Brothers in Chicago have been targeted by their employers with an illegal anti-union campaign aimed at gutting their health insurance coverage, eliminating their guaranteed pension benefits and getting rid of the Union. Treasure Island and its union busters have threatened and intimidated employees into signing an illegal "petition" to get rid of the Union. Employees are currently testifying before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concerning these illegal tactics.

    As a result, Local 881 has established unfair labor practice picket lines in front of the Treasure Island and Potash Brothers stores in your neighborhood. Local 881 is asking consumers to shop at other neighborhood Union stores until Treasure Island and Potash Brothers stop their illegal acts and bargain in good faith with the Union.

    In the past, Local 881 has had respectful relationships with both Treasure Island and Potash Brothers that have provided the employees and their families with good wages and benefits. Now, instead of bargaining in good faith, Treasure Island and Potash Brothers have hired union busters to scare, threaten and intimidate their workers into accepting these unfair proposals. Local 881 will not sit by and allow Treasure Island and Potash Brothers to illegally trample on the rights of our members and their families. Treasure Island and Potash Brothers have violated the law by:

  • Treasure Island has been threatening employees with store closure if they don't get rid of the Union.
  • Making Treasure Island employees pay up to $60 per week for health insurance.
  • Forcing employees to participate in a risky 401(k) plan.
  • Withdrawal from a pension plan that provided guaranteed pension benefits.
  • Unlawfully interrogating employees about whether they support the Union.
  • Coercing employees to picket in "support" of Treasure Island and against their Union.
  • Unlawfully withdrawing recognition from the Union at Treasure Island.
  • Please help the Treasure Island and Potash Brothers employees maintain their affordable health insurance, guaranteed pension benefits and workplace dignity.

    Don't shop at Treasure Island or Potash Brothers until they stop their illegal tactics and agree to fair contracts. On behalf of the workers at Treasure Island and Potash Brothers, we appreciate your support. For more information, call 630/954-1800, ext. 330 or go to http://www.local881ufcw.org.


    Save the Date: June 15

    On Tuesday, June 15, the Congress Hotel workers represented by HERE Local 1 will have been on strike for 1 year. To mark the rolling of the odometer, Local 1 is planning a major mobilization. Plan to be on the picket line from 4 PM to 6 PM at 520 S. Michigan in Chicago. For more information, call 312.663.4373 or go to http://www.CongressHotelStrike.info.


    Bridging the Gap: Health Care for All

    June 19th will be a national day of action on health care and in Chicago, a coalition of unions, community and advocacy groups are planning a rally in to highlight the issue of the uninsured. The rally will be held Saturday, June 19, at Noon in Lincoln Park near North Avenue and Lake Shore Drive (in "Grove 2").

    The rally will feature prominent health care reformers like Dr. Quentin Young, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Democratic Senatorial nominee Barack Obama and former Democratic presidential primary candidate and former Governor of Vermont Howard Dean. There will also be music, propaganda and lots of fun.

    For more information about the national day of action, go to http://www.bridgingthegapforhealthcare.org/


    Fair Taxes for All Coalition

    While Bush's military dictatorship in Iraq has dominated the news with its various and sundry abuses, incompetencies, lies and all, another vicious little war is going on over the Federal budget for the next fiscal year.

    Budget negotiations remain stalled with House and Senate negotiators unable to reach a compromise on fiscal discipline rules. If an agreement is not reached, legislators will most likely forego a budget and move directly to the appropriations process. In such a situation, legislators could be bound by limits set under last year's budget, or each chamber could "deem" new spending limits. Without a budget, tax breaks would not be protected by reconciliation instructions, giving members of the Senate the opportunity to filibuster any new tax breaks. Congressman Young (R-FL), Chairman of the House Appropriations committee, has already begun the appropriations process, signaling that a budget deal may indeed be dead.

    Recently, the Senate passed the FSC/ETI bill, which, while closing some corporate loopholes, created some new ones. The House has passed an unpaid-for extension of the 10% personal income tax bracket, threatening to further increase the federal deficit.

    Soon, the House may consider a damaging budget process bill. The proposed bill would serve the right-wing goal of, as arch-conservative Grover Norquist puts it, "get[ting government] down to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub." The bill would force deep cuts in essential federal government services, like Medicare, Medicaid, education, food stamps, veterans' benefits, environmental protection, and more, while at the same time allowing tax breaks for millionaires to continue unchecked.

    For more information on how you might help oppose this ugly conservative offensive, go to http://www.fairtaxes4all.org. Chicago DSA is a member of the Fair Taxes for All Coalition.

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