There’s so much complaining about unions, especially our own! But our radio program on the Communications Workers of America revealed some very positive aspects of the American union movement.

cwa6171travispirotte-tonyschaffer2

My co-host, Bonnie Mathias is an outspoken member of two CWA locals, including the Dallas dominating CWA 6215. Our guests were from CWA 6171, headquartered in Krum, Texas. Travis Pirotte is the elected president, and Tony Schaeffer is the professional representative from CWA District 6, a five-state region. Tony is the big guy on your left in the photo.

Right now, CWA 6171 is negotiating a new contract with Frontier. A couple of callers wanted to know if they were expecting the company to want big pay cuts. They also wanted to know if the union was doing anything about the national problem of companies’ outsourcing work from union members to low-paid subcontractors. Another caller wanted to know if their union was trying to organize any of the many low-paid, no-benefits workers in the “gig” economy. These were really good questions.

Tony is the expert on negotiations. He said that the company had not made any economic proposals yet. Unions negotiate “economic” and “non-economic” issues separately, with the non-economics usually first, he said. As for the sub-contractors stealing work from the union, Tony said that the CWA has been fighting this nationwide all along.

The Good Part

For me, the good part was when Bonnie and our guests started talking about all the socially responsible things that their union is doing. I knew that Herb Keener from CWA 6215 speaks up for the Blue/Green Alliance between labor and environmentalists. I also know that Claude Cummings, District 6 leader, is a major figure in civil rights activities — whether they concern union members or not. It was good to hear the guests confirm these things.

exxonherb2

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM central time every Saturday. Podcasts are available from the “events” tab. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

I organized a musical event for July 14 at the CWA Local 6215 hall in Dallas. We celebrated Bastille Day and Woody Guthrie’s birthday. As far as I know, it was the first of
its kind in Dallas history. It came out very well. About 50-55 people, including 6 performers, had a great time. There was a lot of good will. I’m not sure how much money we
raised for KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program, but we raised $534.25 that I know of for Dallas AFL-CIO.

But why did I do it?

I’ve organized cultural events before. In general, I’m motivated by a desire to restore the kind of cultural traditions that helped build the American labor movement during
its great upsurge, 1935-1947. I also like to try to combine the labor movement with other progressive elements, in fact that’s what I’m usually trying to do — build unity. As
for fund raising, I’m always raising money for my program on KNON. But I had a special reason for making this one a fund raiser for the Dallas AFL-CIO.

It is my opinion that the labor movement is being bled to death by Donald J Trump and the Republican party. The recent Supreme Court, Janus Vs AFSCME, will deplete labor’s
finances by millions of dollars. Trump’s executive orders driving federal unions out of their workplace offices will cost a lot. The concerted effort of such savage anti-
worker organizations as the National Right to Work Committee and many others is designed to discourage workers and stop dues payments. Many state legislatures are trying to
stop or hinder dues collections.

I don’t know any numbers, and the labor movement is not likely to start advertising its weaknesses, but I think it’s fair to assume that they really need money. I knew I
could’t raise a lot of money with a simple singalong on July 14, but I also knew that we have to start changing people’s attitudes about financing the labor movement. That was
my motivation. I’m pleased with the result.

Here’s What Happened

If you missed the event, you might want to read what was said and watch videos of what was sung. Here are my notes.

Host’s introductions and comments:

Introduce Dallas AFL-CIO principal officer Mark York. He will include greetings from Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy as follows:

“I can’t think of a better quote about labor songs and culture than from the man himself [Woody Guthrie]:

‘I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for
nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim or too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad
luck or hard travelling. I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your
world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that
make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs that I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you. I could hire out to the
other side, the big money side, and get several dollars every week just to quit singing my own kind of songs and to sing the kind that knock you down still farther and the
ones that poke fun at you even more and the ones that make you think that you’ve not got any sense at all. But I decided a long time ago that I’d starve to death before I’d
sing any such songs as that. The radio waves and your movies and your jukeboxes and your songbooks are already loaded down and running over with such no good songs as that
anyhow.’

‘We have to make our own songs and our own culture and remember who we are and what we are fighting for. Thanks to you and the folks putting this together for reminding us to
always be true to our best nature and be proud of who we are.” –Rick Levy

Host (me): Thank you for being here to help us revive labor’s cultural heritage. It’s a singalong. You should have a song sheet with the words to the chorus of some great
songs.

When you leave today, I’d like to have your contact information on the back of the song sheets so you can learn about future events.

Why do we say that Woody Guthrie is America’s greatest songwriter? He began his singing career in the 1930s and was taken from public view by 1950, so hardly anybody in this
room has any direct memories of him. Some of you know the name of his son, Arlo Guthrie, and some of you may know some of the songs that he wrote, but he wrote hundreds and
had a profound effect on the progressive movement in America. That’s why we’re celebrating him today.

Woody put working people first. Almost all of his songs are about working families, and many of them are about organizing. One of the most famous is “Union Maid,” brought to
you here by Linda Coleman. She’ll sing the verses, but she wants you to help her sing the chorus

Union Maid and some introductory video: https://youtu.be/rkq8dK0GP6o

Woody Guthrie popularized the “Talking blues.” You’ve heard this style from Nobel-prize-winner Bob Dylan. But you may never have asked where Dylan got his style. Let’s have a
couple of talking blues from Brother Kenneth Williams:

Talking Union
Mean Talking Blues: https://youtu.be/oxMKDrDGZ0g

Woody sang for unions, for people on strike, and for organizing drives. Here is Kenny Winfree with Woody’s song: “You Gotta Go Down”
You Gotta Go Down and Join the Union: https://youtu.be/ynQqbpRM_bw

Almost any book of folk songs will have more Woody Guthrie tunes than those from any other writer. He wrote songs about everything. Pete Seeger tells the story of the
blacklist time when the FBI was arresting, deporting, or intimidating every progressive artist in America. The FBI actually visited Woody and Pete, and Pete said it really was
intimidating. But he said Woody laughed about it and immediately wrote a new song: Would I point a gun for my country.

All folk music is very close to gospel music. When Woody was just a little boy in Okemah, Oklahoma, his mother sang gospel and folk music to him. James Kille brings you some
of Woody’s original lyrics:
Jesus Christ: https://youtu.be/OdsBZHJ6ePY

In the tradition of original folk music, we bring you this satire by our own Dallas group: The Billionaires
Billionaire song (in previous video I think)

Fund Pitch:
All his life, Woody Guthrie was committed to the progressive movement, and so are we. We’d like to have your help in keeping two pillars of progressivism going strong: KNON
radio and the Dallas AFL-CIO. KNON allows the “Workers Beat” every Saturday at 9 AM. We advertise as many progressive events as we can find out, and we explain why people need
to join the movement. The very center of the movement in Dallas is the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council. The labor movement has put its old isolation behind it and is a
fundamental part of progressivism today. It takes money to run these things, and they’re always short. As Woody used to say when they asked him if he was a communist: “Well, I
might be, I’ve been in the red all my life.”

Please fill out the pledge form in your brochures. You can get all the paperwork done with Bonnie Mathis, who has her computer warmed up and waiting for you. When you get
finished, how about some free lunch and a beer? We’ll start the music up as soon as the artists all eat.
Fund Pitch

Noon: Lunch break

Ashaken Farewell
Shenandoah (Included with “Philadelphia lawyer” below)

Introduce the performers? At least Jon Gentry on violin. Ben Willett recording us.

Woody loved to write about cowboys, and he had fun with everything he did. Next James Kille, Linda Coleman, and I will bring you one of Woody’s ballads.
Philadelphia Lawyer: https://youtu.be/sewKC7EVysw

Today, the treatment of immigrants is an international scandal. Woody was sensitive to the problem when he wrote this song, presented to you by Anthony Esparza.
Deportee: https://youtu.be/iYGiR-TN3LQ

All of us are pretty much amateurs except for Kenny Winfree. I asked him to do a couple of extra numbers before we get back to Woody Guthrie
Kenny Winfree extra songs: https://youtu.be/dSKUtCbKv2o

Back around 1990, My wife and I visited Okemah, Oklahoma, where Woody was born in 1912. We asked people about Woody and they said “We don’t talk about him here.” Within a few
years, they changed their tune and now the Woody Guthrie annual festival is an important national event. It’s a sign of the times: As the government gets crazier, the people
are getting more sane.

Oklahoma may not have loved Woody all the time during his lifetime, but Woody sure loved Oklahoma! Join me in the chorus please!
Oklahoma Hills: https://youtu.be/AsHSSSw9UmI

In Woody’s time, the biggest issue became the fascist takeover of Europe. Woody fought it every way he could. Some people would say that we need a fight like that now!
All You Fascists Bound to Lose: https://youtu.be/-X5wHfLfKhc

Americans come together around Woody’s songs. Let’s join in on the chorus for this one.
This Land is Your Land: https://youtu.be/oL8RNiIi3qI

THANKS FOR COMING!

Sad to say, a rift is under way in the progressive movement.

tariff-definition

The AFL-CIO, main federation of the American labor movement, favors Trump’s tariffs. Our allies in the Democratic party, desperate to win in November, are pretty much united in the belief that Trump can do no right.

On July 12, the AFL-CIO conducted a webinar led by Celeste Drake, their trade specialist. Even though there were a lot of “we don’t mean this” and “we don’t mean that,” the essence of the discussion was that labor thinks tariffs on steel and aluminum are good policy and should have been done decades ago.

Why?

I’ve tried to make this clear several times: labor unions represent our members. It’s the best and the worst thing you can say about us. We do not represent other people’s members, and we do not represent humankind, we do not represent abstract ideals. We represent our members, and our members want job security. Some of them, most notably the Steelworkers, think they can get it, or get more of it, with Trump’s tariffs.

Unions lamented the fact that many unionists in the “rust belt” voted for Trump. This is why.

So, the AFL-CIO position is sure to alienate some of our Democrat friends. It’s going to alienate some unionists, too. For example, the autoworkers probably don’t like tariffs on steel because it means that autos produced in America will cost more and be at a disadvantage in world markets. Aerospace workers won’t like tariffs on aluminum for the same reason.

But, here’s the irony of it, if Trump carries out his threat to put tariffs on foreign-made automobiles, the auto workers will probably be doing handsprings. If he put tariffs on foreign-made aircraft, the aircraft workers would be glad. That’s the way it works.

But Will It Work?

I think the AFL-CIO has taken a wrong turn. I think it’s possible, maybe even likely, that they will reconsider before very long. My opinion doesn’t come because I love Democrats, or even because I hate to see controversy and divisions within the working class. The fact is that the government of the United States does not function on behalf of working people.

We’ve seen that in all of the so-called “free trade” and “globalization” deals over the past few decades. Those deals, as the AFL-CIO is first to say, were for the big transnational corporations and at the expense of working people and the environment. We fought them at every turn. We said we weren’t isolationists, we weren’t for protectionism, we didn’t want to alienate other countries, but we knew we had to fight the transnationals. That made sense.

So why would anybody think that Donald Trump’s stance on “America first” is going to benefit American workers? I guarantee that, whatever comes of Trump’s international policies, including his trade policies, it will not benefit American workers.

What drives the big corporations today is international competition. American corporations try to out-sell, for example, Chinese producers. The main way they compete is to drive down their production costs. That’s us. Workers. We are their main production costs. That didn’t change when Trump got elected.

What’s the Answer?

Ultimately, American workers need international solidarity. Within our unions, we often say that we aren’t trying to bring everybody down to a common level, but we are trying to bring everybody up to the highest level. Why shouldn’t we apply that to foreign workers as well?

We need to work with foreign workers against our common enemy — transnational corporations and their stooges in government. It won’t be easy, but it’s the only way to win.

The old Congress of Industrial Workers (CIO), before it capitulated to the American Federation of Labor (AFL), was more internationalist. They formed an international organization for trade unionists — the World Federation of Trade Unionists — at the end of World War II. In my reading of history, it sounds like they were seriously trying to bring all workers together and fight the corporations that are our common enemy.

The right-turn of 1947 changed all that. Anticommunism became the new union religion, and anti-internationalism is part of anticommunism. The CIO joined the AFL in 1955 and both of them joined the CIA.  The great progressive turn of 1995 started putting the American labor movement back on a good solid progressive course. Since 1995, the AFL-CIO has hardly made a single decision that didn’t inspire me to join their cheering squad.

Until this one. I hope it doesn’t last long.

-Gene Lantz

I’m still on radio KNON at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. Two weeks’ worth of podcasts can be found under the “events” tab. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

Movie Review: “Sorry to Bother You,” Written and directed by Boots Riley, 111 minutes

sorry-to-bothe

There are films that I wish I’d seen with 100 close friends with different viewpoints. Then I could conduct 100 intense conversations that might help clarify what my movie buddy and I sat through.

One thing is certain: this is all-time championship heavy social commentary. It’s on a level with “Brazil,” and maybe a lot better. About everything else, I’m not so sure.

I have questions I’d like to ask my 100 insightful friends: “Does everybody in the movie, including the star-crossed lovers, have to be whacky?” “Why is there an ending after the ending?” “Was playing with the N-word really necessary?” We saw a white couple walk out right after the N-word session, so I guess they were offended. But then, they may have only been confused.

There’s a lot to be figured out, and I’m not sure that even my 100 imaginary intellectual friends would be enough to put me at ease. There are layers tucked under the layers. Just for example, what does the title mean? To begin with, I thought it was just a whimsical title. Then I realized that the main character was a telemarketer who started every call with that phrase, so I thought the title was descriptive. Then, after the movie jolted my world, I decided that the title was a pre-apology from the writer/director straight to me. He was sorry he had to shake up most of my perceptions and a good many of my conclusions, but he went ahead and did it anyway.

Would I recommend the movie? Honestly, no. I am reluctant to recommend it because I’d be risking my credibility with some readers. Lots of people are not going to like this movie. But I’m tempted to recommend it anyway, duplicitous as it sounds, because I want more people to see it and then, maybe, explain it to me.

Would I recommend it? Well, I’m glad we went, and so is my movie buddy. It fits our definition of art, because interacting with it changed us in undefined ways.

I understand that the so-called “gig economy,” temporary jobs with no rights, benefits, or certain compensation, has taken over 20% of the American economy. And the percentage is rising fast. Maybe I should recommend that everybody go see “Sorry to Bother You.”

Before it’s too late.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. Under the “events” tab, one can find the last two programs podcasted. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

Movie Review: “Leave No Trace,” Directed by Debra Granik, 119 minutes

leave-no-trace

A man and his daughter live in the national forest. Occasionally, they go into Portland, Oregon, to visit the veterans hospital and buy a few groceries. But then they go back into hiding in the woods. It takes a criminal-sniffing police dog to find them.

It’s the girl’s story. She gets most of the camera’s attention and nearly all the lines. She’s the one undergoing changes. Her silently suffering father mostly just endures. It takes real acting to do that. There are a few other people in the cast, but they have small roles with little effect on the audience — even though they clearly affect the girl.

I saw the film with a friend who backpacks. He was carefully watching all of the camping gear and at-home-with-nature operations that the daughter and father carried out. He approved. “Leave no trace,” he explained, is a slogan that campers and backpackers use to mean that they clean up after themselves. In this movie, it means a lot more.

I didn’t realize until afterward that director Granek had also given us “Winters Bone,” the  excellent film that launched the career of young Jennifer Lawrence. There are a lot of similarities. Both are really worthwhile films.

Just to top it off, there were three — count ’em three — different union logos in the last frame: Teamsters, IATSE, and Sag-Aftra.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on radio KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM central time every Saturday.  They podcast two weeks under the “events” tab. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

Movie Review: “Woman Walks Ahead,” Directed by Susanna White, 1 hour, 43 minutes

Woman_Walks_Ahead

On the 4th of July, my movie buddy and I learned about people who probably weren’t celebrating the birth of this nation and all the freedom we supposedly enjoy.

Some of the historical background is on Wikipedia. The story starts in 1889 when a painter named Caroline Weldon from Brooklyn comes to the Standing Rock reservation to make a portrait of the great Sitting Bull. In this version, she stays close to him to the end of his life.

If Sitting Bull and Caroline Weldon were as sexy and good-looking as Michael Greyeyes and Jessica Chastain, their Hollywood versions, romance would be inevitable. To the credit of the movie, though, there is very little romantic diversion from the essential story about the end of the great fighting nation and its chief.

The movie makers were challenged to depict a situation of incredible humiliation, degradation, deliberate starvation, racist violence, and genocide. They did a good job of it. The results are hard to watch in places. At the same time, one has to imagine that reality at the Standing Rock Reservation had to have been far worse.

Like some of the best Westerns, this one stars the scenery. The other actors are truly wonderful. Jessica Chastain underplays her role with an admirable professionalism. Michael Greyeyes brings a great and complicated man to life. The main racist villain, Sam Rockwell, is so evil and so broadly representative of the oppressive attitudes of the time that he nearly steals the movie. His is one of those characters that viewers can almost taste and smell.

The director gets the most praise because she tells an essential American story without skipping over its horror and without preaching about it. We count ourselves lucky to have found this movie. Others may have to look hard for it.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas TX at 9 AM CST every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal site.

 

 

 

 

a member of the National Indian Defense Association “NIDA”, reached out to Sitting Bull, acting to be his voice, secretary, interpreter and advocate.

 

 

Have you noticed the number of journalists getting killed lately?

It makes you stop and think about it. Around the world, journalists who try speaking truth to power are getting murdered. President Donald Trump isn’t helping when he tries to convince everybody that truth is fabricated, dark is light, and up is down. By constantly demonizing journalists, he’s painting a big bulls eye on their backs.

Which brings me to my letter to the editor printed today in the Dallas Morning News. It said that the recent decisions of the five anti-worker Supreme Court Justices reveal that they are opposed to democracy and would like to do away with it. The editors removed one word from my letter, “fascism.”

I equated the absence of democracy with fascism. If someone, like the Supremes, moves us away from democracy, they’re moving us toward fascism. That simple.

I try to explain things like that on my radio show every Saturday. Last Saturday a guy called to ask if I think all “conservatives” are also “fascists.” I said no, and I quoted conservative columnist David Brooks who recently wrote, “You can be a Republican or a Conservative, but not both.” He said true conservatives embrace democracy because they want freedom for all individuals.

If you aren’t for workers, I say, then you are automatically for corporations because their interests are opposite. Mussolini said that fascism was corporatism, and that makes sense to me.

I explore things like that all the time in my writing and on my radio show. Does that mean I’m in line to get killed? The studio is on the ground floor of an office building. Two sides are glass. Around my neighborhood, I’m always on my bicycle. Unprotected. I think that if I get to be as effective as I’d like to be in spreading the truth, I’d be in line to join the growing line of dead truth spreaders.

I thought about getting a gun, but that would kind of dilute the message, wouldn’t it?

 

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

gun

Movie Review, “1945,” Directed by Ferenc Török. 91 minutes

1945-2guys

I like to accuse my intellectual friends of only liking black-and-white movies in obscure dialects. They’d be sure to like “1945,” but almost anybody who likes good movies would, too.

It’s deceptively simple: Two tight-lipped Jewish guys come into a small Hungarian village immediately after World War II.

Can you imagine that? The all-gentile townspeople can. They have been dreading this coming every moment since their own participation in the holocaust.

I like filmmakers who understand their powerful medium and use it expertly. They don’t necessarily have to have wide screen, technicolor, computer graphics, or a cast of thousands to draw us moviegoers in and change us through art. This is a very sparse movie, like a tiny and innocent looking stick of dynamite.

The best movie comparison I could make is to “High Noon.” It’s not a cowboy movie, but the pacing and the tension it creates are similar. If you liked High Noon, you’d probably like “1945,” and who doesn’t like High Noon?

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. There are podcasts under the “events” tab. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.