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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!

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.

I liked a great deal of what I saw at the Texas Democratic Party convention in Ft Worth on June 22, but not everything.

conv-laborcaucuscrowd

The first thing we attended was the Labor Caucus. Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy presided over a completely packed meeting with people standing three deep along the back and sides. I caught Levy’s opening remarks on “Facebook Live” where you can see them at https://www.facebook.com/gene.lantz.7.

Just about every critical candidate in Texas was there seeking union help. Levy could only recognize most of them briefly due to time constraints. The ones that he introduced to the podium were the most critical statewide candidates such as Lupe Valdez for Governor.

candidate-lupevaldez

I noticed at least two unions had bought ads in the Democrats’ brochure: CWA and UAW. The Texas AFL-CIO booth in the Exhibit Hall was abuzz with activity. They took polaroids of people posing in front of their big slogan, “I’m union, I fight, I vote!’ It has a “big fist” image, to show power and commitment.

Labor’s big impact on the Democrats was evident everywhere. It doesn’t mean that labor is in their pocket, it actually means the opposite. Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa likes to say that Labor and the Democrats are “joined at the hip,” but in truth labor’s activities are very much our own. In this photo, you can see Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy thinking carefully while Hinojosa speaks to the Labor Caucus.

conv-levy-gilbertohinojosa

The deep polarization in America is causing working families to support Democrats. Recent news reports show Republicans trying to implement $6 trillion in cuts that would affect working people, less than a year after their big tax giveaway of more than a $trillion$ to the wealthy. The Texas Republican Party’s platform, just finished June 18, is a kick in the face to working families, and especially to our children.

On the downside

In their exuberance, the first dozen or so speakers at the Democrats’ convention emphasized two main themes: immigration and gun violence. These are hot-button issues today, to be sure, but they are issues that the Democrats already own. The Republicans have generously donated those issues and those voters to the Democrats.

But what about fighting the corporate takeover? What about America’s three ongoing wars and attempts to coerce and undermine other nations? What about America’s disgraceful top-of-the-world prison population? What about taking concrete steps to end the health care hodgepodge and support Medicare for All? What about saving the state’s environment in the face of rampant oil well fracking and nuclear waste dumping? I didn’t hear those issues, except for some vague emotional appeals here and there.

The inescapable conclusion is that the Democrats are not ready to forego big corporate campaign donations any more than the Republicans are.

What will you do?

I realize that many of America’s best activists have adopted the age-old goal of trying to take over the Democratic Party. I hope they do, but history tells us that it isn’t likely.

Supporting working families, not candidates nor parties, is the way to go. It may be true that nearly all of labor’s candidates in 2018 will be democrats, and it may be true that an individual activist can be more effective short-term working directly for candidates than he/she might be while working for the AFL-CIO, but that would be a major long-term mistake.

The electoral arena is only one of many, and we must choose labor in every one!

If the goal is to make serious change, activists must recognize that only workers can do that. They are the only ones who can stand up to capitalists. A few years ago, one could not have been blamed for feeling that the AFL-CIO and unions in general were not rightfully the leaders of the working class, but that is no longer true and has not been true since 1995. The AFL-CIO today truly works for the entire class and strives to organize everybody.

That’s the team we should join!

–Gene Lantz

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

 

 

 

 

I just got the word, via Bruce Bostick of the Steelworkers, that Ed Sadlowski died yesterday.  He was one of the great American labor leaders who ultimately didn’t win.

sadkiwski-leaflet

It’s easy for us to remember the great leaders for working families if they rose to some title or office that makes the history books. What we don’t remember is the thousands who did the work but didn’t get the titles. The Sadlowski campaign for President of the Steelworkers was a landmark event in 1977, but Ed didn’t win the election.

After the draft was repealed in 1972, America’s big student movement dribbled away. For a lot of the 1960s-70s “radicals,” the progressive movement was over. You see them all the time. They’re the older guys with ponytails who love to talk about it, but it was only an interlude for them.

The young people who had been transformed by that great anti-war movement continued engaging in the many struggles for justice. Many of them still are. In general, though, they didn’t look to organized labor for causes. Unions did not want them. Most unions had ignored or opposed them throughout their political awakening and, to be frank, many of us had little or no hope for the union movement.

Sadlowski was a point of departure. His energetic fight for justice in the Steelworkers’ union showed that there were great things to be done in the union movement and great people were doing them. We flocked to the Sadlowski campaign, even to the point of giving up college career plans and getting Steelworker jobs.

Ed Sadlowski did not reject the outside help. He paid a price in red-baiting for that. I don’t think the red-baiting caused him to lose the election. He lost because he was bucking a mighty tide of conservatism and isolation in the American union movement, in my opinion. But the red-baiting hurt, too.

If we knew our labor history, we’d know that there were heroes in many unions who bucked the tide. Steel and the Miners Union may have been in the papers more, but it was going on in a lot of places.

I think the big payoff for the insurgents began in 1987 when a few unions started Jobs with Justice. In 1992, as I recall, there was a big conference of the more progressive unions to discuss the problems of low-paid workers. Then in 1995, John Sweeney, Richard Trumka, and Linda Chavez-Thompson overturned 100 years of continuous officeholding in the AFL-CIO. That’s when it really started getting good, and it’s improved every day since then!

The Ed Sadlowski’s may not get the titles and the awards, but they did the work for all of us.

–Gene Lantz

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

President Trump is the champion of fair trade for American workers. Or is he destroying the hopes of all workers for a peaceful and beneficial world? Or does he even know what he’s doing?

me-nonafta

A lot of working families were won over by Trump’s promise to renegotiate so-called “trade” agreements and restore American jobs. People, including a lot of union people, are still hoping he will. Yesterday, he poked his finger into the eyes of several world leaders at the G7 meeting in Canada. He said he was representing American workers.

What’s “Fair,” What’s “Free?”

For decades, since the Clinton Administration at least, American unions have been campaigning on the slogan “Fair trade, not free trade.” We always say “We’re not against trade — we just want it fair.” But it’s been very hard for union leaders to resist xenophobia and isolationism, because those “isms,” — right along with nationalism and racism — are also against the trade deals that America negotiated since Clinton.

The people that knew what they were talking about presented the argument that the so-called “free trade” deals were only “free” for big transnational corporations — not for the working families in America or any other country. Big corporations received “freedom” to pay low wages and pollute, nobody else got anything. That’s why we opposed NAFTA and all the others leading up to the “Trans Pacific Partnership” that was still an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The people that knew what they were talking about actually favored trade deals if they included wage and environmental protection. But not everybody is so sophisticated. They hate the trade deals anyway. That’s why so many of them voted for Trump.

There’s a History to “Free Trade”

I recently read a complete history of Britain and found an interesting reference. When Britain “ruled the waves” and ruled the world, their slogan was “free trade.” From the time they defeated Napolean until World War I, the English favored what they called “free trade.” They didn’t , at least not immediately, necessarily open their own markets, but they wanted everybody else, especially their many colonies in Asia and Africa, to open theirs.

In other words, “free trade” meant, then and now, the “freedom” of one country’s corporate rulers to exploit everybody else. Another word for it is modern imperialism.

After World War I, and especially after World War II, when the United States took over world trade, corporations wanted “free trade” for the exact same reasons. But the “freedom” was always for the exploiters and never for the exploited, then and now.

Everything Ends

There are different ways to look at the Trump program on trade issues. Economists and pundits are arguing that he’s destroying the world and setting us back centuries. Trump and his supporters say he is restoring fairness. Xenophobes and racists are rooting for him, as they have all along.

But there’s another, more interesting way to look at Trump’s trade wars. American economic domination is coming to an end. It actually ended in the 1970s, according to some. Since then, international leaders have simply agreed to keep the system in place even though the United States is living on credit and has been for decades. The post-war system put in place by the United States after WWII has actually fallen apart. Donald Trump is just an opportunist trying to turn the situation to his own benefit.

A Real Solution to the Trade Wars

Modern nations were created by capitalism. Each nation is run by and for the bosses. Their economic and political decisions are made for the benefit of the dominant class — the capitalist class. That includes much more than trade deals and treaties. It also includes global pollution, war and genocide.

It is theoretically possible that the various governments, as presently constituted, could cooperate on trade in a way that would benefit the inhabitants of the various nations. But that’s only in theory. It has never worked that way because the inhabitants, us, were never in charge. We still aren’t, and there will be no solution until we are.

–Gene Lantz

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

 

 

 

Last night I listened to an outstanding report from a participant of the 1960s-70s American student anti-war movement. The reporter really knew his stuff, and his analysis was superb.

communist-dead

At the end, though, I disagreed. It wasn’t that I don’t concede that the guy knows twice as much about the student movement as I do. It isn’t that I don’t agree that the student movement shook the world, refashioned people’s thinking, and contributed greatly to ending the Vietnam War. He’s absolutely right on that.

What I disagreed with was the emphasis. The progressive movement that we are experimenting with right now is the biggest, most important, and most potentially effective people’s movement since the American Civil War. Maybe even better than that. The student movement was nearly all college students, and mostly white draft-age males at that. Even the civil rights movement of 1954-1968 was limited to a relatively small sector of the population. The labor upsurge of 1935-1947 was great, but the union movement was split between the AFL and CIO then. The Industrial Workers of the World exceeds everything in pure romanticism, but I don’t think there were ever more than 100,000 actual members. The populist movement of the late 19th century was limited to farmers and, for the most part, didn’t even include landless farm workers. Outside Texas, the populists were infamous for their racism.

No, now is better.

Communists and Fascists Today

We had communists and fascists in the old days. We have them now.  People understand them both better now than they did when they were just “hot button” emotional topics. It is true that fascism is inching forward in America, but it is also true that people know what to do about it. More importantly, the fascists can’t use anti-communism as effectively as they did before. Anti-communism is dying out among America’s youth.

Just Look At Us!

I looked around the room while my friend was talking about our student movement. The crowd was mostly young, but not all young. In gender and race, it was diverse. When my friend talked about making leaflets for anti-war demonstrations, I realized that the people at the meeting had, in their purses and pockets, more thinking and communicating power than we ever dreamed of as students. They could make leaflets in minutes if they wanted to, but they don’t even need leaflets. They are experts at communicating. This small group could have easily reached thousands of co-thinkers before they left the room!

Labor Is Getting Past Its Isolation

Speaking of the room, it was the auditorium of the local school employees’ union, American Federation of Teachers. The president of the local union walked through and said hello to a few of us. Could you imagine, in your wildest dreams, that the student anti-war movement could have met in an AFT union hall? Albert Shanker was President of that union in those days, and he was, next to the president of the American Federation of Labor, the most fanatical supporter of the war in Vietnam.

Labor isolated itself from the progressive movement in most instances between 1947 and 1995, then they made a gigantic change toward standing for all workers.

Today’s progressive movement is warmly accepted in union halls. The Dallas AFL-CIO welcomes radical Bernie-Sanders-socialists several times a month! The AFL-CIO banner regularly appears at anti-war, civil rights, gay rights, environmentalist, and immigrants’ rights rallies. If anything, the national and state leaderships of the labor federation are even more integrated into the general progressive movement than Dallas unions.

I like studying the history of other progressive movements. There are many good things to learn, and we learned some of them last night. But don’t get carried away with the past. Now is better.

All We Have Is Now

I welcome discourse when I publish. Disagreements are welcome. But bear in mind that today’s situation is the only one we have. Romanticizing earlier situations may be fun or interesting, but all our efforts can’t go into “then.” They have to go into now! On that, last night’s reporter, and everyone else, agrees!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 Central Time every Saturday. Podcasts can be found under the “events” tab. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.

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