Sunday, February 27, 2011

Historic revolt in Wisconsin on tomorrow's episode of Labor Express Radio...

Tomorrow's episode of Labor Express Radio will focus on coverage of the ongoing labor revolt in Wisconsin. Make sure to tune into the program - 10 AM at 88.7 FM

Until than check out this great video by Labor Beat video producer Andrew Friend...

And check out these articles on Huffington Post...


And take a look at this from the South Central Wisconsin Federation of Labor which is considering a GENERAL STRIKE!...

Pictures by Labor Express contributor Tessa Campagna. Tessa is a great photographer. You can find more of her work here...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pictures from today's Libya solidarity rally...

Here are some pictures from today's Libya solidarity rally. I love the pictures of Gaddafi for people to stomp on. Listen to Monday's episode of Labor Express Radio for audio from the rally, 10 AM Monday morning on 88.7 FM.

For the rest go here...

Updated: The revolt in Egypt is a test for Hugo Chavez and the American left...

Update: Chavez has very disturbingly expressed support for the "Libyan Government" as Gaddafi massacres the Libyan people...

Below is my original article from Feb. 6th...

The revolt in Egypt is a test for Hugo Chavez and the American left...

As I scanned over articles about the revolution under way in Egypt, one article in particular caught my attention. It was an article discussing the reaction of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to the situation in Egypt. You can find the article in question here...

What I found particular interesting about the article was Chavez’s clear effort to avoid taking a side in the conflict in Egypt. Chavez was quick to condemn U.S. meddling in Egypt, an easy (and correct) position to take as one of the most pronounced voices of anti-imperialism in the world. But clearly Chavez found it more difficult to distance himself from Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Perhaps his must disturbing comment was his suggestion that the U.S. should have extended a visa to Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the deposed former dictator of Tunisia, whose ouster by pro-democracy forces in January set off the events in Egypt. Note too, Chavez’s two buddies in the region, which he mentions consulting on the situation in Egypt, Libya’s Muammar al-Gaddafi and Syria's Bashar al-Assad, leaders of regimes equally as autocratic as that of Egypt’s. As the article suggests, it should come as little surprise since Chavez has worked hard to present himself as “pro-Arab, opposed to the policies of Israel and the United States”. Chavez’s anti-imperialism is admirable, but his embrace of some of the world’s most brutal rulers, such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, in an attempt to construct a global counter to U.S. power is not.

I scanned over the Internet for further comments by Chavez on the situation in Egypt to no avail. I found this perhaps slightly surprising given Chavez’s proclivity to express his opinion on a wide variety of matters, especially international politics. But it than occurred to me that the situation in Egypt could be seen as a test of Chavez’s true motivations and intentions regarding the “Bolivarian Revolution”. Latin America’s left turn over the course of the last decade has been exciting for anyone committed to social and economic justice and the empowerment of the working class. The elections of Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and to a lessor extent (with major graduations) Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Lula da Silva (an his successor Dilma Rousseff) in Brazil, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, the Kirchners in Argentina, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and Mauricio Funes in El Salavador where major steps forward for a region that only two decades ago was dominated by right-wing authoritarian regimes propped up by the United States. It proved that the left could contest for power electoral with great success. The attempted coups in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and unfortunately the successful coup in Honduras, which were the right’s response to the left’s electoral success, proved definitively, that at least in the Latin American context, it is the right that is the quickest to abandon democratic principal and resort to repressive violence in their struggle to keep elites in power. But winning state power through elections is far short of the revolutionary transformation so desperately needed in the region and across the global. To be sure the lot of the working class and the most marginalized (peasants, indigenous communities, women) has improved substantial as a result of Latin America’s left turn. Economic growth has been impressive with GDPs up and unemployment and poverty down. In places like Venezuela policies like higher minimum wages and various programs to re-invest the nation’s oil wealth into the countries poorest communities has resulted in concrete gains for the majority of citizens. But the situation in Venezuela is illustrative of how this has been achieved by many of the left learning governments in the region. 50% of government revenues and 90% of export earnings are dependent on the countries oil resources. This dependence on one major natural resources has allowed the state to improve life conditions for the countries poor majority, but is a precarious asset on which to peg the nation’s future. In the meantime, class relations, social structure, and concentrations of wealth and power have hardly been effected by the “Bolivarian Revolution.”*

After scanning the net for more comments by Chavez on the situation in Egypt, I decided to see if Evo Morales in Bolivia had anything to say on the matter. Evo Morales, though often portrayed as Chavez junior partner in Latin America’s left turn, is in some ways perhaps a more revolutionary figure than Chavez. Morales is Bolivia’s first Indigenous president in a country in which Native Americans constitute 55% of the population, the highest percentage in Latin America. He comes directly out of a mass movement of peasant coca farmers unlike Chavez who was a product of the military. Not surprisingly, I found nothing in regards to Morales’s thoughts on the situation in Egypt. Unlike Chavez, Morales is a quiet man, normally content to focus on what he knows best, the plight of his country’s poor farmers. But I did run across something interesting that had escaped my attention. In December Morales, the man who has been one of the world’s leading critics of neo-liberalism, attempt to impose serious austerity measures that would have had a devastating impact on the countries impoverished majority. Morales removed subsidies on fuel, sugar and flour, leading to steep increases in the price of gasoline and basic foodstuffs. He was forced to back down from his decision only after major protests by poor coca growers the very people that brought him to power.** What this reveals, is something that remains the greatest weakness of Latin America’s left turn. Much like the social forum movement which was both a product of and inspiration for the left victories in the region, the contemporary Latin American left (and the left worldwide for that matter) is defined by what it is against. The left turn was a rejection of the neo-liberal model of economic development. In the words of the social forum...”another world is possible.” This was an important and necessary breakthrough in the era of American triumphalism that followed the end of the cold war under which the “end of history” was declared and any possibility of opposition to militant neo-liberalism was unthinkable. The Latin American left shattered that illusion, but unfortunately, the movement never got around to providing many concrete details about what the other world should look like or on what basis it wold be built. Such aversion to utopian scheming was in many ways healthy, a reaction to so many failed 20th century revolutions. But without a positive vision - without a clear concept of what you are for, not just what you are against, it is impossible to move from critique to construction of that alternative.

Chavez’s Bolivarian Revoultion has been one of the greatest casualties of this. At the center of the problem of the movement in Venezuela has been its focus on Chavez as its messiah. Yes, the Bolivarian movement has at its base a network of unions, peasant groups and other popular organizations, but I think it is undeniable that the energy and focus of the movement has been largely top down. If this was not the case, if the movement was truly bottom up, built on mass popular organizations with deep roots in the Venezuelan working class - organizations so democratic that they regularly produce a mass cadre of organic leaders, who at the same time, are total beholden to their movement’s rank-and-file, their would no need for Chavez to continue as Venezuela's president indefinitely to maintain his revolution.*** For the movement to reach real maturity as a revolutionary movement it must eclipse Chavez the man. But the reality is, the Bolivarian movement is still too much of a cult of personality. And Chavez himself has never seemed to be able to decide if wants to really advance something new, a “21st century socialism”, or grasp on to failed models of the past, like Castro’s Cuba which he so admires.

Let me be clear here. I am not suggesting that Chavez is a dictator in any way, shape or form. Unlike the mainstream press in the United States which has never acted more like a apparatus of the U.S. State Department than when it comes to their reporting on Venezuela. Indeed, their is probably no other leader in the world that has been more democratically chosen by his nation's people than Hugo Chavez. Chavez, and his party have won free and fair elections over a half dozen times in the past 12 years, and survived an attempted coup, only because of the Venezuelan people’s feverant support for him. No U.S. president in recent years has near the claim to type of popularity and democratic legitimacy as Chavez has been able to maintain in Venezuela despite serious challenges. But Chavez popularity and more than numerous electoral victories do not alter the fact that he has pursued changes in the countries Constitution and laws (a constitution he lead the country in writing) that threaten elements of Venezuela's democracy.**** And what are Chavez intentions for the future of his movement? Does he really believe the Bolivarian Revolution requires a life time presidency, even if comes with a popular stamp of approval every six years?

This brings me back to original point. Does Chavez’s position on the Egyptian revolution reveal something about his concept of the way forward, of the future of the struggle for global social transformation? Chavez’s international alliances have been the most disturbing aspect of his politics. Chavez was one of the first to recognize the “victory” of Ahmadinejad in Iran after the fraudulent elections of 2009, squarely placing himself on the side of the oppressors against that of the oppressed. The situation in Egypt is even more interesting. As a U.S. ally, the Mubarak regime in Egypt would seem a natural enemy of Chavez, but even in this circumstance, it seems Chavez is uncomfortable fully embracing the masses from below who are challenging the secular, nationalist, corporatist dictatorship of Mubarak. If Chavez is truly committed to a global movement of working class empowerment from below, rather than the creation of his own left-corporatist autocracy in Venezuela, why should he seem reluctant to advocate for Mubarak’s overthrow, or distance himself from the Gaddafis, the Assads, and the Ahmadinejads of the world, and instead embrace the burgeoning freedom movements in each of these countries.

This is not merely a test for Chavez but also for the U.S. left which has beaitified Chavez in their desperate longing to grasp on to any force that represents an counter to U.S. global hegemony. Much of the U.S. left considers even the slightest critique of Chavez or that matter Morales as beyond the pale, pure treason. So far the same left has embraced whole heatedly the revolt in Egypt. It must seem odd than that St. Chavez has not been as ready to join them in their demonstrations of solidarity. It is also worth noting that the U.S. left’s enthusiasm for the Green Movement in Iran was much less pronounced and Chavez’s non-existent. Anti-imperialism is again a position in the negative. Yes, U.S. global domination must be resisted, but a positive movement of global workers solidarity must be the ultimate goal. Simple being opposed to U.S. power does not automatically guarantee a just society - Iran is the perfect case in point.

Of course it is beyond anyone’s predication at this moment what direction the Egyptian revolution itself will take. The U.S. political establishment is busy stirring up fears of an Egyptian theocracy, rooted in the power of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Comparisons between the situation in Egypt and the events leading to the 1979 revolution in Iran is a persistent theme of commentaries on all the mainstream news programs. But despite the similarities there are vast differences between the two situations. One of the most interesting developments in the last few days was the Muslim Brotherhood’s reaction to Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s statement that the events in Tunisia and Egypt were an “Islamic awakening”, inspired by the example of Iran’s 1979 revolution and the theocracy that has ruled Iran since. The Muslim Brotherhood explicit rejected Khamenei’s view as soon as he issued his statement. In their own statement, the Muslim Brotherhood stated “The MB regards the revolution as the Egyptian People’s Revolution not an Islamic Revolution”. This indicates that even the Islamists in Egypt recognize that Egyptians desire for real democracy will not allow for the substitution of a secular autocracy for a religious one. It also indicates the rulers in Iran are desperate to ensure that Iranians don’t recognize the obvious affinity between the Egyptian pro-democracy protesters and Iran’s Green Movement. It’s beyond a doubt that the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have shook up the region and the world and challenged all sorts of long held political certainties.

The reality is the movement in Egypt is pleasantly leaderless, but also, to this point, founded purely on a negative - Mubarak’s removal from power. Those of us who find the revolution in Egypt, and its rapidly expanding ripples throughout the region exciting, are eagerly waiting to see what positive content the movement generates. What type of society do the masses in Egypt want to replace the Mubarak regime? This is yet to be determined. But what is abundantly clear is that this is a revolt from below that deserves our whole hearted support. But I wonder, where is Hugo Chavez’s heart?

* For an insightful analysis of the true state of the Venezuelan state and the Bolivarian process see the following link...

*** An interesting sideline, the electoral victory of Lula da Silva in Brazil, unlike Chavez’s in Venezuela was more bottom up in the sense that is was a more organic development, the result of years of organizing and base building by the Workers Party and the Brazilian labor movement. Indeed, this is in part the reason the electoral victories have outlived Lula himself and the baton has been passed on to Dilma Rousseff. Unfortunately, Lula’s government in Brazil could hardly be called revolutionary and Chavez has moved much further in reconstruct society in Venezuela in favor of the working class than Lula did in Brazil.

**** See the following links for more info on Chavez’s less than democratic political maneuvers...

Of course it is worth noting political and human rights are much, much better in Venezuela than they are in neighboring Colombia, the U.S. most significant ally in the region. Yet the mainstream press in the U.S. hammers Chavez for real and perceived human rights failings while remaining largely silent about the serious human rights violations in Colombia.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A great new film needs your support…


Tambien La Lluvia (Even the Rain), a new film featuring the 2004 Cochabamba Water War as both backdrop and major theme, has finally made it to theaters in Chicago. Here is a brief description from the distributor…

A Spanish film crew arrives in Bolivia to make a film about Columbus in the New World. Idealistic director Sebastian (Gael García Bernal, The Motorcycle Diaries) wants to denounce the injustices of the past, focusing on exploitation of the indigenous people. Practical producer Costa (Luis Tosar, Cell 211), working on a tight budget, has chosen Bolivia, one of Latin America's poorest countries, to stand in for Santo Domingo because extras will work for only $2 a day. After an open casting call almost degenerates into a riot, Sebastian hires outspoken Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri) to play the rebel Indian leader. But when the locals begin demonstrations against a multinational's plans to privatize water-even the rain-Daniel is in the thick of them, endangering the film's shooting schedule. The thought-provoking screenplay by Paul Laverty (The Wind That Shakes the Barley) cunningly parallels the Spanish conquest of the Americas with the modern spread of capitalism. This fascinating mixture of past and present, fiction and fact, features spectacular scenes of the period film within a film. Directed by Icíar Bollaín...”

You can find out more at the films Facebook page…

The film just missed being selected as a contender for the Best Foreign Language Film in the 2011 Academy Awards. I couldn’t care less about the Academy Awards as many of the best films ever made received zero attention from the Academy, but even a nomination for the awards would have meant hundreds of thousands more people might have seen the film. So it is up to us to spread the word. I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect film by any means, but so few films address such important issues like globalization and the Bolivian Water War, that a move like this that does needs to be celebrated.

One of the most powerful lines in the film is delivered by Sebastian, the director of the film that is the plot of the movie. At one point he says… (and I paraphrase from memory) “this stuff will be forgotten but the film will live forever” or something to that effect, indicating in an extremely egotistical way that his film is more important than the Bolivian’s struggle for public ownership over their water resources. The line is supposed to be dark comedy highlighting the absurdity of Sebastian’s obsession over the film and his blindness to the importance of the events around him. But sadly, there maybe more truth to his statement than we might like to admit. How many people in the United States know about the Bolivian Water War. I would guess far less that 1%. Ironically, his film could in a small way help correct that injustice.

The film is playing at least through next Thursday at the Century Landmark Theater on North Clark Street.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dark day for Chicago, but a ray of light in the 25th Ward...

So Rahm Emmanuel has been elected the next privatizer in chief. Wisconsin is looking much closer to Chicago than ever before. Lets just hope we can organize the same type of labor rebellion against Rahm they have so successfully organized in Madison. Let’s see who loses their jobs first. Will the unions that decided to play nicey, nicey with Rahm really believe they will be spared Rahm’s meat cleaver? I suggest they bend over and kiss their collective asses good bye. Rahm is a man who loves to be feared not loved. I give it one year before even the most feverent Daley opponent (myself included), long wistfully for the return of daddy Daley, when evil step dad Rahm takes over.

But all is not hopeless tonight. Here in the 25th, in good old Pilsen, we live to fight another day. Danny Solis has finally paid a small price for his host of sins. We have a run-off! Here are the totals as of 10:47 PM with 31 of 31 precincts counted and 100% of the vote in…

DANIEL ''DANNY'' SOLIS 4,291 48.94 %
AMBROSIO MEDRANO JR. 2,025 23.10 %

Morfín, who nearly forced Solis into a run-off in 2007, missing it by .5% of the vote that time, has succeeded to force a run-off this time. It is an impressive feat for a progressive candidate, running a nearly all volunteer operation on a shoe string budget, facing off against one of the city’s most powerful alderman. It was quite a site today to see Morfín’s rag tag army of volunteers, many of them long time or more recent community activists, many recent immigrants with limited English ability, face off against Solis’ well oiled (and well compensated) patronage machine. As the exact numbers for each precinct come in, the complete results of today’s election will become more clear. But I expect that they results will be similar to previous elections. Danny will have probably lost most of Pilsen, perhaps by as much as 70% compared to Morfín and Medrano’s combined numbers. Danny will probably once again have carried areas outside Pilsen, especially Taylor St. and Chinatown by wide margins. The big question mark might be University Village, the area with the newest residents and Danny’s new home post domestic squabbles last Fall.

Danny Solis was clearly on the defensive all day. Even many of his supporters at the polls indicated that they recognized, perhaps for the first time, that Danny was vulnerable. What is quite interesting is that a number of Solis campaign staff indicated part of this vulnerability was a result of the hard work done in the past year by PERRO (Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization) who have highlighted Solis’ close financial ties to Midwest Generation, owner of the Fisk Plant on Cermak Avenue, the neighborhoods (and one of the state of Illinois) biggest polluters. With unbelievable timing, Michael Hawthorne had an excellent article in today’s Chicago Tribune highlighting the fact that Midwest Generation has been lying when they say they are doing everything possible to clean up the plant. The article reveals precisely what the Clean Power Coalition has said all along, that the company will not make any serious improvements until required to by law. To read this incredible article, check the following link…,0,579546.story

This clearly put Danny Solis on edge. When I asked him today if he planned to call Charley Parnell, an executive at Midwest Generation and a member of Danny Solis campaign finance committee, and ask him why he has been lying about cleaning up the plant, Danny told me, and I quote…”Go ask your Mom the same thing!” A rather bizarre grade school taunt from Danny that I don’t quite understand – am I supposed to ask my mom why Charley Parnell is lying to Danny Solis and the Pilsen community?

The big question now is whether Morfín, Medrano and their supporters will unite to fight Solis. Both committed to the other that they would do so, and it will be absolutely necessary as Morfín will need every single Medrano voter and than some to win. Ambrosio Medrano Jr. is a good guy, with a passionate heart and a deep love for the Pilsen community. He recognizes that the neighborhood we both love is seriously at risk if Solis wins another election. I believe he will wholeheartedly support Morfín in the next phase of this fight.

It is interesting how well each of the three candidates represents a different part of our community. Medrano, despite being the youngest of the three, represents some of our oldest residents. The Chicanos, the 2nd generation Mexican-Americans who grew up in the neighborhood. Long time residents, working class people, the people feeling the sting of Solis gentrification the most. Morfín represents a part of Pilsen that is both new and ancient. Morfín’s people are what has made Pilsen a port-of-entry neighborhood for a 150 years, but these people are relatively new to the neighborhood – recently arrived immigrants from Mexico. He also represents another element of what has been at the heart of Pilsen’s chracater for the past century and a half – the bohemian (in the creative, not ethnic sense in this case), the artist, the young progressive to radical activist community. His constituents are the lowest levels of the working class, the type of people who for so many years could find a home in Pilsen, but will not be able to much longer if gentrification firmly takes hold. And than there is Danny, who represents all the things that threaten the others very existence – the real estate developers, the corporate big wigs, the White gentrifies now in a disturbing alliance with a new class of Latino yuppies. It is a battle for Pilsen’s very soul. Will Pilsen continue to be a port of entry, a place vibrant with working class, immigrant culture. Or just another Taylor St., a once great Italian immigrant neighborhood whose only real remaining Italian immigrant character is a few high priced Italian restaurants. Can the Chicanos, the Mexicanos and the activistas unite, and hold back the gentrifying tide ready to wash over our neighborhood, or will the forces of big money be to difficult to withstand. The future is up to us.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

PERRO holds rally outside Solis fundraiser...

CHICAGO, February 16 – Frustrated by Alderman Danny Solis’ reluctance to become a co-sponsor or advocate of Chicago’s Clean Power Ordinance, Pilsen residents are asking, who does Alderman Solis represent – the community or Midwest Generation?

The proposed Chicago Clean Power Ordinance would require Midwest Generation to reduce the pollution produced by the Fisk and Crawford coal fired power plants by roughly 90%. A study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health links air contaminants from Fisk and Crawford alone to over 40 premature deaths, around 500 emergency visits, and thousands of asthma attacks every year.

Alderman Solis has received over $50,000 in campaign contributions from Midwest Generation. “An average donation for a company of that size," Solis told the Chicago Sun-Times, but the company is Solis’ 3rd largest contributor. Half of all the company’s contributions to Chicago aldermen have gone to Solis. Midwest Generation executive Charley Parnell is a member of the Alderman’s Campaign Finance Committee. Is this why Alderman Solis opposes the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance?

Pilsen residents held a rally outside a fundraiser for the Alderman and distribute leaflets to those in attendance revealing the Alderman’s financial ties to the Midwest Generation and calling on the Alderman to become a co-sponsor of the Clean Power Ordinance. Over 50 people attended the rally and a number of print publications covered the event. I will post those stories once the are published.

For pictures of the rally, go to the following link...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The most under-reported story of the year so far?...

I normally argue that the mainstream press spends way too much time on crime stories. The nightly news is filled with stories of this or that murder trial, not because they are all that relevant to the general public interest, but simply for the sensationalism factor. So it is truly perplexing, that when a murder trial comes around that actually highlights truly important social issues there is a virtual media blackout on the event.

Yesterday, in a Pima County, Arizona courtroom, Shawna Forde was convicted of the brutal murder of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her dad, Raul Flores after breaking into their home in 2009. Forde is a leader of Minutemen American Defense, a organization affiliated with the anti-immigrant border vigilante group the Minutemen. She is also an activist in the Tea Party movement in Arizona and with FAIR (the Federation for American Immigration Reform). On May 30th 2009 Forde and two accomplices broke into the home of Raul Flores and executed Raul at point blank range. They than executed nine-year-old Brisenia who was begging for her life. Forde and her friends also tried to kill Brisenia’s mother Gina Gonzalez, but she survived.

The case seems to be a clear cut example of the danger represented by the anti-immigrant movement and the increasingly violent views of the American right wing. But there has been almost no coverage of the case in the mainstream press. Don’t believe me? Do a Google search for yourself and see how few stories from mainstream press sources you find. What is really disturbing about this is the fact the media has spent a great deal of time over the past few years reporting on cases of violence by drug smugglers, immigrant smugglers and undocumented immigrants along the border against ranchers and Border Patrol agents. The lopside coverage smacks of racism and plays into the hands of the growing, militant anti-immigrant movement. If the press is not going to report on this story, WE NEED TO!

Earlier today the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC), held a press conference at Casa Michoacan in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood to issue an organizational statement on the case. For audio of the full press conference go here (it alternates between English and Spanish)...

Here are links to a few articles on the case. Note they are mostly from independent, non-mainstream news sources. Those from mainstream sources are tiny, back page type stories...

Monday, February 14, 2011

From Egypt to Pilsen - It's time for change...

Below is the full text of a letter to the editor I submitted as the Green Party's 25th Ward Committeeman to a number of local newspapers. I expect at least a couple to publish a shortened version...
The residents of Pilsen face many challenges. Many residents are themselves undocumented immigrants or have family members that are. The majority of residents are working class, many are low wage workers who have been hit hard by the current economic crisis. The health of Pilsen residents has been adversely effected by pollution from point-source polluters like the Fisk coal fired power plant on Cermak and the H. Kramer brass smelting facility on 21st Street. Long time residents are being pushed out of the neighborhood by rising property taxes, home prices and rents.

For all these reasons and more, Pilsen residents are desperate for change. Change that will not come if Danny Solis’ 15 year tenure as alderman is extended for another 4 on February 22nd. The proposed Chicago Clean Power Ordinance would require Midwest Generation to reduce the pollution produced by the Fisk and Crawford coal fired power plants by roughly 90%. Air contaminants from these plants result in over 40 premature deaths, around 500 emergency visits, and thousands of asthma attacks every year. Scientific studies released just in the last year and a half by the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago and Physicians for Social Responsibility have re-confirmed the results of the original study conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2001. These recent studies have also found linkages between these pollutants and other health problems like cardiovascular diseases. It is a public health crisis of major proportions. Solis opposes the ordinance while both of Solis’ opponents in the race, Cuahutémoc “Temoc” Morfin and Ambrosio Medrano Jr. support the ordinance.

Solis’ opposition to the Clean Power Ordinance is not the only way the Alderman has shown a disregard for the well being of residents of the 25th Ward. Solis also voted against the Big Box Living Wage Ordinance which would have dramatically improved the lives of low wage workers at stores like Wal-Mart and Target. Solis did not play a significant role in efforts to unionize workers at V. & V. Supremo or at the Casa de Pueblo grocery store. Not surprisingly unions consider Solis one of their biggest opponents on the Chicago City Council. Morfin has the support of the Chicago Teachers Union, the largest and most progressive union in Chicago. Medrano has the backing of the Services Employees International Union.

Solis has tried to present himself as of late as an advocate for undocumented immigrants. But his contributions to the immigrant rights struggle have been symbolic at best; unlike Morfin who who has been an active participant in the immigrant’s rights movement for many years. Solis has also angered the Whittier School Parents Committee which feels the Alderman was reluctant to assist them in their struggle to save a field house on school grounds. Morfin was an early ally of the Whittier parents and played a major role in the expansion of Juarez High School.

Perhaps Solis’ greatest failing is his closeness to real estate developers in the ward and his lack of concern over the growing gentrification of the neighborhood. The ability of long term residents to continue to be able to afford to live in the neighborhood is a top concern of those living in the 25th Ward. During his 15 year tenure as Alderman, Solis has demonstrated little concern for those displaced by gentrification and has expressed support for high end, high cost housing developments. Morfin has been active in efforts to combat gentrification in Pilsen for almost a decade, supporting such efforts as Pilsen Alliance’s down zoning proposal and the attempt to create a zoning advisory board.

The people of the 25th Ward are desperate for change. On February 22nd, they will have the opportunity to turn that desire for change into reality.

Jerry Mead-Lucero, 25th Ward Committeeman for the Green Party
Photo of Solis by Kate Gardiner/ WBEZ

Friday, February 11, 2011

Egyptian working class plays key role in the revolution...

The people of Egypt have brought down a 30 year dictatorial regime. They have set an example for the entire region and the world. It appears that a turning point in the Egyptian revolution was the rising of the Egyptian working class which begun in a big way last week with strikes across the country. I have heard reports that women workers were particularly important. The future of the country now depends on what role Egyptian workers and women will play in constructing a new society in Egypt. For more on Egyptian labor's role in the revolution, check out the following links...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

UGTT and the Tunisian revolution...

The UGTT (Tunisian General Labour Union), the union federation of Tunisia has operated as a type of corporatist union for most of its history. Meaning, it was integrated with the government, supposedly to represent the workers, but mostly to ensure the government labor peace. The revolution which broke out last month and lead to the ouster of dictator Ben Ali, forced the union into a dilemma - side with the repressive state apparatus of which it had been a part to a great extent or join the forces of revolt and attempt to become an independent, truly representative body for the working class. In January, the UGTT decided to side with the anti-regime forces and its organizational power was key to the success of the movement. But now the leadership of the UGTT seems to be once again, creating alliances with the remnants of the regime that remain in power. More radical elements with in the union federation are resisting this development.
Here are two articles describing some of what has been going on. The first reflects the position of the UGTT in late January when it was on the side of the protesters in the street....

Tunisia: Interview with UGTT Deputy Secretary General Hacine El Abassi

On January 14, 2011, Ben Ali, the Tunisian dictator, was forced to flee the country as a result of the revolutionary mobilizations of an entire people.

No sooner had Ben Ali fled than all the reactionary forces -- both inside Tunisia and on a world scale -- rushed to form a government of national unity structured around Ben Ali's party, the RDC, but also incorporating liberal "opponents" to the old regime. Key to this attempt to put a halt to the revolution under way in Tunisia, and to rescue the old regime, was the effort to co-opt the leadership of the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) trade union federation into joining the government of national unity.

Initially the UGTT accepted this proposal from Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi. But as soon as it was announced that three representatives of the UGTT had joined the government, a revolt took place at all levels of the UGTT federation against this decision. The UGTT had been a backbone of the revolution; its local and regional leaders and activists were central leaders of the revolution, its headquarters had been used widely as the organizing centers and launching pads for the mass mobilizations.

Under huge pressure from the members and officers of the union federation, the NationalAdministrative Council of the UGTT convened an emergency meeting 12 hours after its initial decision and voted a resolution announcing that it was withdrawing its representatives from the national unity government and from all elected positions on a national, regional level and local level.

This opened a new chapter in the unfolding Tunisian Revolution.

We are publishing below an interview with Hacine El Abassi, Deputy Secretary General of the UGTT. it is reprinted from the Jan. 26, 2011, issue of Informations Ouvrières, the weekly newspaper of the Independent Workers Party (POI) of France. The interview was conducted on January 24 by the Informations Ouvrières correspondent in Tunisia. -- Alan Benjamin

INTERVIEW with Hacine El Abassi, Deputy Secretary General of the UGTT:

"If there is no other way to get the Ghannouchi government to step down, we will call ageneral strike."

Question: What is the position of the UGTT in the current political situation?

Response: I remind you that on January 18, the UGTT adopted a resolution that states:

"Considering that the coalition government does not correspond to our ideas, that it does not express the demands we have put forward and that it does not represent the aspirations of the people and workers, [the UGTT] decides to withdraw our representatives from the coalition government; to have our elected union officials resign from the National Assembly, from the Assembly of the Council, and from the local councils; and to suspend the participation of the UGTT in the Economic and Social Council."

The UGTT also demanded, "[t]he dissolution of the RCD ... and the rejection of any foreign intervention in the internal affairs of our people, as they were the ones who overthrew a president that repress[ed] the people; the people therefore should be the ones to determine their destiny without outside interference."

The trade union federation also called for the "nationalization" of the Ben Ali clan's property, that is, the takeover by the Republic of Tunisia of a large portion of the economy. In this vein, the UGTT called for a "Constituent Assembly through free and fair elections that reflect the will of the people."

It is in this sense that the Secretary General of the UGTT and three members of the National Executive Committee, of which I am one, will meet tomorrow [Tuesday, Jan. 25 -- Ed.] with the political forces that want to end the RCD regime and its government. The goal is to discuss with them the conditions for the formation of a Government of Public Salvation, as per the January 18 resolution adopted by the UGTT's National Administrative Council.

The UGTT will play its role as a catalyst until a solution is found that is consistent with the interests of the people and their revolution. It will help ensure that opposition political parties will become part of the Government of National Public Salvation, constituting thereby a transitional political alternative to the RCD government, which has been rejected by the Tunisian people.

The only goal we pursue is the fulfillment of the goals of our revolution.

The UGTT will play its role to help gather and unite all opposition political forces in this direction. On this basis, we will be an obstacle to all internal and external enemies, who are able to weave their webs only to the extent that they are in our midst and are still willing to collaborate with our enemies.

Question: What are the objectives of the Tunisian revolution?

Response: Economic development, democracy, social justice, and a constitution. The first spark that will indicate that our country has changed course is the development of the interior regions, regions that have been totally abandoned by the RCD regime.

During 2010, we had undertaken an economic study of the Sidi Bouzid region and had warned the government of the risk of social explosion because of the alarming unemployment rate and the total lack of economic projects and job prospects. Development projects were implemented only along the coast.

Numerous studies show that the Ben Ali government's policy of privatization since he came to power has been responsible for the destruction of the economy.

They did not even know how to administer their own privatization policies. Workers in many privatized sectors are now demanding the nationalization of their companies. I cite, as an example, the public transport company, Tunis Air -- and there are many others.

In the face of the failure of the privatization policies, we had demanded a halt to the process to see if the privatized enterprises were functioning or not. We have always demanded a halt to privatization and the conservation of our companies as public enterprises.

Today, we ask that all of our companies are restored to the State because they must serve the objective of development and employment in our country. More specifically, we are calling for the the restoration of all privatized public enterprises into the hands of the State. This is imperative.

The French people have suffered for many years from this damaging privatization policy, dictated by the European Union (unemployment, the dismantling of public enterprises, the blows to social rights, etc.)

We are aware of this situation and know the harmful social effects that privatizations are causing in Europe as well. In each of our union battles against privatization, the government told us: "Even Europe is compelled to privatize."

The union federation in basic education has called today [January 24] for an indefinite strike. The strike has been followed massively, according to the reports we have received. But faced with the deafness of Ghannouchi and the RCD government, what can be done?

For our part, we will use all legal means to ensure that the demands of the Tunisian people are carried out -- for the departure of the Ghannouchi government and the dissolution of the RCD. Strikes are taking place in many sectors, as are marches and demonstrations.

If there is no other way to get the Ghannouchi government to step down, we will call a general strike. But we believe that the pressure of the street and that of workers in their workplaces, schools, etc. is in the process of making the government tremble.

The second describes the recent moves by the UGTT to accommodate itself to the current government, and those within the federation who oppose this. Read it at the following link...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Egyptian union federation born out of recent struggle for democracy...

To see original posting go here...

This is an attempt to create a new union federation, independent of the corrupt official central labor body, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), which has ties to the government...

Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions

Constitutional Body Creation

Egypt is going through historical moments… Its people is courageously struggling to defend the right to live a decent life… the right to dignity, freedom and social justice… to decent opportunities and just pay… to a democratic society for all, offering every single citizen a share in its wealth and GNP… a society that does not allow few to buy private jets whereas the rest of the population cannot even afford public transportation… a society that refuses to pay the top of the pyramid salaries higher thousand of time than minimum wage.

A society that allows its people to breathe freely… to freely speak, interact and express itself… a society that allows all people categories and classes to defend their interests and negotiate freely… a society that does not oppress its people, inhibits its ambitions and natural tendencies to develop workers capacities and improve their life conditions.

Workers and people struggled for decades and participated, especially since 4 years, in unprecedented recurrent protest actions to defend their legal rights. They succeeded in their endeavor despite the lack of independent union organization, stolen piece by piece for decades. They succeeded in attracting larges social sectors, and mobilizing greater sympathy among the Egyptian society, workers and union movements.

Workers defended their right to work to face unemployment specter – that devours youth – and demanded to set a new fair minimum wage that guarantees decent living for all workers. They fought courageously to defend their democratic right to organize and create independent union organizations.

Labor struggles paved the way to today’s people revolution. That is why Egypt workers and employees totally refuse that the “governmental” general federation represents them and speaks in their name, because it often denied their rights and claims and even issued the famous statement on January 27 claiming to oppose every single protest action during this period.

Therefore, independent unions and committees [RETA, Retired Workers Union, Health professionals Union, Teachers Independent Union] along with workers independent groups in industries declare the creation of Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions and its constitutional body on Sunday the 30th of January 2011 and emphasizes on the following:

  1. Egypt citizens right to work – and binding the government to “unemployment compensation”.

  1. Define a minimum wage no less than 1200 LE, with a yearly raise proportionate to inflation; guarantee workers rights to bonuses and benefits according to work value, especially work compensation for those facing work hazards. Moreover, maximum wage should never exceed minimum wage by more than ten times.

  2. The right for all Egyptian citizens to fair social security including the right to health care, housing, education “ensuring free education and syllabus development to cope with science and technology evolution”, the right for all retired to decent pensions and benefits.

  1. Workers and employees right to organize, to create their own bylaws, to remove all legal restrictions regarding this right.

  1. Free all detainees imprisoned after January 25th.

Egypt Federation for Independent Unions Constitutional Body invites all Egypt workers to create civil committees in order to defend their workplace, workers and citizens during these critical times and to organize protest actions and strikes in the workplaces, except for vital sectors workplaces, to realize Egypt people claims.

Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions

The “Constitutional Body”