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New Ground 46 Chicago DSA


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Obama with membership in the Chicago Democratic Socialist organization in the 1990s.

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New Ground 46 Chicago DSA

  1. 1. New Ground 46 - Chicago Democratic Socialists of America About Home New Ground Events Debs Dinner Links Join DSA Audio Email us CDSA Your contribution is appreciated but, because of our advocacy work, not tax deductible. New Ground 46 May - June, 1996 Contents The Counter-Offensive Gathers: It's Still the Economy, Stupid! by Bob Roman Downsizing: An Expensive Illusion by Albert R. Verri Rainbow Coalition Meets in Chicago By Christine R. Riddiough, DSA Political Director A Future for Socialism by Gene Birmingham 5th Midwest DSA Activist Conference Other DSA News The Counter-Offensive Gathers It's Still the Economy, Stupid! by Bob Roman After a year of damage control following the disastrous 1994 Congressional elections, a counter offensive is beginning to take shape around economic issues of immediate concern to working people across the nation. If Clinton is inclined to paste a smiley face on the current situation, labor and the democratic left have not forgotten Carville's reminder: "It's the Economy, Stupid!" Across the country, DSA has been holding town hall meetings on "Economic Insecurity" to packed rooms. The University of Chicago Youth Section's first town hall meeting in February attracted an audience of over 300. In Boston, a coalition effort led by DSA brought almost 1,000 1 of 9 9/24/2009 9:54 PM
  2. 2. New Ground 46 - Chicago Democratic Socialists of America people together. The Progressive Caucus has decided to hold a series of monthly hearings on Capitol Hill and in the Districts on the theme of "The Silent Depression - The Collapse of the American Middle-Class." The first of these hearings, was held in Washington, DC, on March 8. Caucus chair Bernard Sanders (I-VT) said, in calling for the hearings, "The most important economic issue facing our country is that 90% of the American people since 1973 have seen their standard of living stagnate or decline. The reality is that the average American, whether white-collar manager or blue-collar factory foreman, today is working longer hours for lower pay and in constant fear of a sudden pink slip. Meanwhile, the richest people in America have never had it so good." Future hearings will be held around the country and will address issues ranging from whether we need a new national jobs policy, how to offset the impact of corporate downsizing to the creation of jobs that pay a living wage. Later in the years hearings will provide an opportunity to explore untried ideas for keeping and creating more good-paying American jobs and achieving more economic justice and security in the context of sustainable economic development. The AFL-CIO has adopted a strategy similar to DSA's Activist Agenda. The campaign links its legislative, organizing, bargaining and political efforts under the slogan "America Needs a Raise". AFL-CIO President John Sweeney announced in February the labor federation would hold a series of town hall meetings from March through May to hear from workers on the impact of stagnant wages on their families. Organized labor will also support the Jobs and Living Wage campaigns in states and cities around the country. The AFL-CIO will hold a town hall meeting in support of an increase in the minimum wage on Wednesday, May 29. At press time, the venue and program were to be determined. The campaign begins in Chicago with a rally on April 24th in support of the Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance and the Minimum Wage bill (HR 620). The event will take place at 5 PM in downtown Chicago in conjunction with SEIU's national convention. At press time, the exact venue for the rally had not been finalized, but the initial plans had it located at the band shell in Grant Park. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney will be a featured speaker. The Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance will be formally introduced into the Chicago City Council at the May meeting of the Council. The measure, patterned after similar ordinances introduced in major cities around the country, provides that companies contracting with or subsidized by the city pay a living wage. The Chicago ordinance also has provision for community based hiring halls for non-construction employees. The campaign for the Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance is led by Chicago ACORN and SEIU Local 880 under the auspices of Chicago Jobs with Justice. The campaign is very well organized and it brings together a broad coalition of labor and community groups. Nearly every Alderman has a group assigned to lobby in favor of the Ordinance. A video has been produced to popularize the issue. Economic research is being done to investigate the effect on business and the city's finances. But opposition to the Ordinance is also organizing. The Ordinance has been attacked by CANDO, the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations, on the grounds of "business climate" and paperwork. They also do not like the hiring hall idea. Some of CANDO's arguments could have merit. The quality of the debate is demonstrated by the lack of any effort by CANDO to get these concerns addressed prior to the introduction of the ordinance. 2 of 9 9/24/2009 9:54 PM
  3. 3. New Ground 46 - Chicago Democratic Socialists of America In Congress, the counter offensive is mostly centered on two "wedge" bills, the Corporate Responsibility Act (HR2534) and the Income Equity Act (HR 620). Neither of these bills have much chance of passing in this Congress, but the campaign in support of them frames the issues of economic insecurity and budget priorities in ways that are awkward for conservatives; they bring issues of class to the forefront. The Corporate Responsibility Act was part of the reaction to the conservative victory in the 1994 elections. A relatively large and complicated bill, it raised the issue of "corporate welfare" at a time when social programs were under increasing attack. The bill closes a number of a number of tax loopholes favored by corporations and the wealthy. It also ends a number of Federally financed research and development projects that are viewed as being primarily corporate boondoggles. Unfortunately, this approach to the issue runs into the ambiguities of the Federal budgeting process and the issue of industrial policy. There is no way to distinguish between "handouts" and "investments" in the current Federal budgeting process and there is no way to track the performance of "investments" even if there were agreement on which is which. Under the current Federal budgets, one person's "welfare" could easily be another person's "investment". The Income Equity Act is simply a bill to raise the Federal minimum wage from $4.25 an hour to $6.50 an hour. It also has an interesting provision which closes a tax loophole that rewards employers that pay their most highly paid employees more than 25 times their lowest paid employee. This bill also dates back to 1995, but it has attracted the majority of its cosponsors in this session of Congress. Your support for these two bills is important. Legislators need to understand that the balance of power and wealth needs to begin tilting toward the working people. Enclosed with this issue of New Ground is a postcard, courtesy of Share the Wealth, to send to your Congressman. The address is: U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515. Don't forget to include your name and return address. Don't delay! Do it today! (And it only takes a 20¢ stamp!) Chris Riddiough contributed the portion about the Progressive Caucus to this article. 3 of 9 9/24/2009 9:54 PM
  4. 4. New Ground 46 - Chicago Democratic Socialists of America Downsizing: An Expensive Illusion by Albert R. Verri A generation ago, one might have heard of the word "downsizing" to mean a slimming down of some sort. Today it is used as an euphemism for the reduction and restructuring of workforces and such other situations that could lessen cost to a company's operations. Reduction of non-personnel costs is usually a regular function of management. Extraordinary reductions of workforces, on the other hand, have broader significance because of the social consequences they bring in their wake. A company decides to "downsize" in the hope that its leanness will enable it to remain competitive and to be more profitable. The American Management Association has reported that less than 50% of the downsized firms had realized better profits. In their frenzy to downsize, many firms have neglected to consider the consequences of their actions. A host of mainstream publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, U.S. News, Time, The New Republic and others, have expressed some misgivings about the downsizing process as being a form of "...anorexia - dumbsizing - neglecting future growth - loss of employee morale - reduced productivity - making workers feel insecure - causing disruption in workers' families...", etc. 4 of 9 9/24/2009 9:54 PM
  5. 5. New Ground 46 - Chicago Democratic Socialists of America Recently CBS-TV's 60 Minutes demonstrated how downsizing was now affecting the higher levels of management structure with testimonials of insecurity and bleak promises of future employment in their former higher-paying professions. Downsizing is now affecting the ranks of middle management, not just the entry-level jobs. The downsized worker today has hardly the job options of a generation ago. In 1994, for example, 45% of the 3.5 million new jobs created were in the service sector. The proliferation of jobs in the service industry has created a devastating "cliff effect" from a worker's former wage to drop precipitously to low-paying service occupations. A downsized workforce is the twin of an economic equation that we must posit and not ignore. Our own economic history reminds us that a healthy economy has to have a viable consuming population. Can we forget the obvious economic deficiency of the 1930's Great Depression that made it clear to the nation that consumer demand had to be restored? The departure from the laissez-faire economics of the 1920's and the advent of the New Deal ushered in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Home Owners Loan Corporation to stop evictions and farm foreclosures, guaranteed savings accounts, and mammoth programs of public works that put millions of our "downsized" workers back on paying jobs that resulted in increased demands for goods and services. Should "downsizing" be the option of individual entrepreneurs along? To paraphrase a famous quote, each company is not an island unto itself where it can make its own decisions without regard to the impact their actions have upon the whole of society. Massive layoffs of workers inevitably have their effect on the level of consumption: the part of the equation that must always balance and synchronize with available products and services. It was Will Rogers who said a century would have to pass before we could determine whether the first Henry Ford had hurt or helped us. Ford did come forth, however, with an economic principle that is still basic to any economic system: that workers have to have the power of consumption. Raising his workers' wages to $5 a day and then to $7 a day during the 1920's was a phenomenal event that won no plaudits from the business community. Ford's dictum still prevails today as it did in the 1920's. Unless his workers had adequate and steady wages, they could not buy the flivvers they made and he could not have realized his own profits. Had all the entrepreneurs followed that advice in the 1920's, perhaps, the catastrophic depression of the 1930's might have been averted or ameliorated. Unemployment and public buying power must be faced directly and meaningfully as a question of national policy. An exaggerated "natural rate of unemployment" departs from the reality that exists. We need to learn from the pitfalls that occurred in the 1920's that brought us an historic and catastrophic depression. Creating aggregate demand to increase workers' buying power needs to be a top priority of public policy. Ignoring this great social need can only mean serious social consequences for our country. 5 of 9 9/24/2009 9:54 PM
  6. 6. New Ground 46 - Chicago Democratic Socialists of America Rainbow Coalition Meets in Chicago By Christine R. Riddiough, DSA Political Director The National Rainbow Coalition and Education Fund held its annual meeting in Chicago at the beginning of March. The two themes of the meeting were Target '96 and setting a new education agenda. The convention was interesting in several respects. Perhaps most striking was the participation on panels by key Democratic and labor leaders who had not previously been particularly friendly to either the Rainbow Coalition or Jesse Jackson. Jackson, who ran for President in 1984 and 1988, has often been seen by Democrats as too radical to include in many party activities. At times he has been vilified as a splitter who has weakened the party and provided fuel to the right. But it seemed clear from the presence on Rainbow convention panels of such prominent leaders of the party as House majority leader Dick Gephardt and Democratic National Committee Chair Don Fowler, that Jackson is now seen as the one person who can mobilize the African American vote; this vote is understood to be crucial to Democratic victory in November. Party leaders perhaps recognize that failure to mobilize these voters (and many white women) in 1994 led to the resounding triumph of the right in that election. The labor breakfast drew some 600 people. It featured a keynote address by John Sweeney, the new president of the AFL-CIO and a DSA member. Sweeney is the first AFL-CIO leader to speak at a Rainbow meeting and this was yet another signal of changes in direction for the labor movement. While the involvement of these leaders hints at the potential for change in American politics, the meeting as a whole also hinted at some problems. Although the labor breakfast and a sports dinner both drew large crowds, overall attendance at the event was relatively small - only about 300 people, most apparently from the Chicago area. The weakness of the grass roots base of the Rainbow is an indication of the need for stronger organizing efforts. Jackson's presence was overwhelming; he spoke at almost every panel, as did newly elected representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. This suggests that leadership development is also weak. The Rainbow Coalition continues to have enormous potential as part of the movement to rebuild the American Left, but the challenges it faces are also great. A Future for Socialism by Gene Birmingham Harold Wells, A Future for Socialism? Political Theology and the Triumph of Capitalism, Trinity Press International, Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482, 1-800-421-8874, $19.00, paperback. 6 of 9 9/24/2009 9:54 PM
  7. 7. New Ground 46 - Chicago Democratic Socialists of America This book is for everyone interested in socialism's future, even though addressed directly to Christians. The author has solid credentials for his subject. He was active in the New Democratic Party of Canada and its predecessor organization, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. As a young minister in Saskatchewan he witnessed the first "socialist" government in North America produce universal, government sponsored medicare. He maintained a connection with the New Democratic Party after moving to northern Ontario. He taught Theology and Ethics and served as chaplain at the National University of Lesotho in southern Africa, 1976 - 1981. There he encountered a combination of Marxist and Christian thought struggling with apartheid. He offered courses on Christian Faith and Marxism and Liberation Theology. Wells is now Professor of Systematic Theology, Emmanuel College, Toronto School of Theology. Part I of the book, "What is Political Theology", is for Christians looking for a connection between theological and socialist concepts. One example is the similarity between the terms "kingdom of God" and "utopia". Wells does not rule out a contribution from other religions but emphasizes Christianity because that has provided his orientation and has been the focus of his professional life. Part II of the book, "The Triumph of Capitalism?", deals with the rise and fall of Soviet communism, the problems of North American capitalism, and the issues arising from capitalism in the Third World. A major problem for socialists is that many transnational corporations have more power than some governments. It will, therefore, take more than electing new governments to make a difference. That holds implications for socialist strategy. In Part III, "What Is Socialism?", Wells takes the reader through a brief, but pointed, history of socialism from the Industrial Revolution to the present as a background for defining socialism and looking at its various contemporary expressions. The final section, "Concluding Theological Reflections", ties in with explicitly Christian thought with which he began. After an attempt at definition, Wells points to contemporary possibilities for socialism and leaves the reader with enough hope to be optimistic in pursuing a socialist agenda. I found helpful his distinguishing between broadly stated goals of socialism and the need to decide on methods and strategies. Socialists often agree on the former but disagree on the latter. His other main point, that socialism is not one clearly defined system but a continuum along which various kinds of socialist thought have emerged, is also helpful. There is no place in the world where either socialism or capitalism exist in pure form and probably never will be. The goal for socialists is to settle on achievable goals consistent with their ideal or utopian visions and to find ways to bring them about in practice in a changing world. This book would serve well for small groups or individuals who lack knowledge of the history of socialism and its concepts and who seek to try to create a socialist practice in the face of contemporary capitalist power. It offers incentive for Christians who want some relevance between political and theological concepts. Wells acknowledges the lack of socialist answers at present but reminds us that the present practice of capitalism is going to lead increasingly to calls for an alternative vision. His book provides a springboard for that search. 5th Midwest DSA Activist Conference 7 of 9 9/24/2009 9:54 PM
  8. 8. New Ground 46 - Chicago Democratic Socialists of America A Labor Activist/Midwest Activist conference will be held in Chicago on May 4 at Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan. It will follow the annual Chicago DSA Debs - Thomas - Harrington dinner to be held Friday evening, May 3, at the Congress Hotel at 520 S. Michigan. Tentative agenda for the conference is: 8:30 am - Registration (Room 232) 9:00 am - Opening Plenary - Overview of Labor Today 10:30 am - Workshop Session I DSA's Agenda: Economic Insecurity Labor Organizing International/Globalization Noon Lunch 1:30 pm - Workshop Session II DSA's Agenda: Election's 96 Immigration, Labor & Politics Labor & Youth, Diversity 3:00 pm - Mini-plenaries/Meetings Labor Commission Midwest Activists 4:30 pm - Closing Speaker/Panel Registration for the conference is $5 to help cover costs. For more information contact the DC DSA office at (202) 829-6167. Other DSA News Three out of four candidates endorsed by Chicago DSA in the March primary election won. Only Willie Delgado lost in his effort to win nomination for 3rd General Assembly District; he received only 43% of the vote. Danny Davis walked away with the nomination for the 7th Congressional District; he also had no trouble defeating two candidates for 29th Ward Democratic Committeeman. Patricia Martin's race for Judge of the Circuit Court (7th Subcircuit) was more of a cliff-hanger as she won by only 3%. She will have no opposition in November's General 8 of 9 9/24/2009 9:54 PM
  9. 9. New Ground 46 - Chicago Democratic Socialists of America Election. Barack Obama won nomination to the Illinois Senate with no opposition. He will have no opposition in November. The 49th Ward non-binding referendum in support of the Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance won with 3,164 votes against 576 "no" votes and 1,140 "abstentions". Among other election results of interest, Marc Loveless, candidate for the Harold Washington Party nomination for Circuit Court Clerk, lost the election to Philip Morris, which leads to some interesting speculation. Mr. Loveless did win election as 32nd Ward HWP Committeeman. Michael Chandler, Alderman of the 24th Ward, was elected in the non-partisan Chicago City Council election last year with support from the New Party. In March, he was elected 24th Ward Democratic Committeeman, easily defeating Jesse Miller, Jr. Add yourself to the Chicago DSA mailing list (snail mail and email). Back to top. 9 of 9 9/24/2009 9:54 PM