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Capitol Hill Shop Steward

Try These
Appetizers ....

As featured in
Labor Party Press

When someone joins the Labor Party or when a union decides to affiliate, it’s always the "main course" issues that help them make up their minds. I’m talking about the main reasons any working person would want to join the Labor Party. Here’s a review of the "main course" as far as I’m concerned:

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans supports a national health care system. Both have fired vast numbers of public-sector employees via "privatization" and "reinvention." Manufacturing workers have been slaughtered by the millions as Republicans and Democrats push trade schemes that help corporations export good U.S. jobs. Presidents from both major parties routinely break railroad and airline strikes. Neither does anything about desperately needed labor law reform. George W. Bush and Al Gore both want government to offer "private savings accounts," opening the door to the destruction of Social Security. And let’s not forget that Big Business and rich people provide virtually all financial support for the Republican Party and most of it for Democrats.

But these things, my friends, are only a few of the dishes on a very big, very ugly buffet table. In just about every newspaper I find new items to add to what I call the "appetizers" list — all kinds of little tidbits and snacks that would turn your stomach, if only you knew about them. All are reminders that the Democrats are hell-bent on imitating Republicans on issue after issue. Try these:


Back in April, the Washington Post reported that the largest single donation received by the Democratic National Committee was $350,000 from SBC Communications, the West Coast telephone giant. And in the same newspaper, it was revealed that a class-action lawsuit was filed against the company on behalf of 40,000 current and former employees. It seems that SBC pulled a switcheroo with stocks in employees’ 401(k) plans, apparently switching valuable for less valuable stocks. By the way, did the DNC return the donation pending resolution of the lawsuit? Well, what do you think?


In mid-June, the Wall Street Journal reported that USEC Inc. — the company that won the privatization sweepstakes and runs two government uranium enrichment plants — is going to close its plant in Piketon, Ohio. More than 1,700 workers, most of them members of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers (PACE, a Labor Party union), will be out on the street. When the Clinton Administration doled out the sweet privatization deal to USEC in 1998, they gave the company a loophole that allows it to close one of the plants if company bonds ever hit junk-bond status. They did. Never mind that such a flimsy outfit should never have been handling such important material in the first place, or that USEC’s CEO was paid a salary and bonus package in 1999 amounting to $1.2 million. Has the Clinton Administration or Al Gore made a pledge to end this out-of-control privatization experiment? Guess.


A couple of weeks ago, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call ran a cover article entitled "Absentees imperil GOP’s advantage." It seems that so many Republican members of Congress are missing work that the party is concerned about their ability to get things done. But don’t worry. Toward the end of the article it is revealed that Democrats Matthew Martinez of California and Jim Traficant of Ohio have been jumping in to prop up the Republicans on party-loyalty votes. Fortunately, Martinez is on his way out after losing in the primary to a pro-labor Democrat. Traficant is under federal investigation and is rumored to be switching to the Republican Party.


Right before July 4, the Washington Post reported that the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE, another LP union) won a federal appeals court ruling stopping the Clinton Administration from turning over most meat inspection to the same companies that are slaughtering and packing the nation’s meat and poultry. The AFGE case literally saves lives, since now AFGE members will continue to check for contamination carcass-by-carcass. The Agriculture Department wanted these civil servants to check for germs from behind their desks. Let’s ask Al Gore if he supports boosting the number of inspectors checking our national food supply.


In late June the union-busting Gannett USA Today "newspaper" ran a story headlined "Gore/Bush: When it comes to economics, the differences are hard to find." That’s as far as I got, because I don’t read USA Today in support of our fellow workers in Detroit. The hotel drops it at your door every day even if you tell them not to.


At the end of June, the Washington Post reported that General Electric had hired former members of Congress Bob Livingston (R-LA) and Vic Fazio (D-CA). It seems that GE needed help killing an amendment to a bill that would have forced them to hurry up with plans to dredge PCBs from the Hudson River (GE polluted the Hudson with this deadly toxin decades ago). In the end, GE’s bipartisan investment in these two gentlemen paid off, with the amendment failing by 208 to 216. President Clinton likes to play golf with GE chairman Jack Welch. I wonder if Al Gore likes golf?

And to top off the list of goodies, let’s not forget that Al Gore recently bade farewell to his campaign manager, the scandal-plagued former congressman Tony Coelho. And to the delight of working people everywhere, the Gore campaign has replaced him with none other than William Daley, the current friend-of-big-business Commerce Secretary. Daley, the Clinton Administration’s chief salesman on the China trade bill and the WTO, was architect of the 1993 passage of NAFTA.

Feeling a bit queasy? It must have been something you ate. Maybe it was one of the appetizers. So better get busy on the only cure I know of — go ask someone to join the Labor Party.

Chris Townsend is political action director of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE).

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