Wednesday, October 27, 2010

5 days until the election

It looks now as if  the Democrats will lose the House, and they may lose the Senate. In either case, most of the limited progress we have seen will stop.  Anti immigrant forces are mobilizing in Arizona and some 20 other states.  See Arizona's law SB 1070. The current governor- who was not elected as governor, was well behind in the polls. She polled at less than 40%.  Then she began her anti immigrant rants and promoting SB 1070.  She now has an over 60% support. 
Anti Mexican racism works.  Here is how it happened in California in 1994.
 "In the Summer of 1993, a failing economy and governmental retrenchment combined to make Governor Pete Wilson the most unpopular governor in recent history.  By November of 1994 Wilson won re-election with over 56% of the vote.  Two factors combined to deliver victory to Wilson; a mean spirited, divisive, and racist campaign directed against Mexican and Mexican Americans, and an inept campaign by Democratic Candidate Kathleen Brown.
    In 1994 The voters of California voted 62% to 38% in favor of Proposition 187, the Save Our State initiative to restrict illegal immigration.  A number of groups including FAIR, the Republican Party, and the Perot organization worked together to qualify the initiative.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Brazil - after Lula

Dilma Rousseff came very close to winning in the first round of voting in Brazil, she ended up on the threshold of the government currently led by Lula de Silva. Lula, the most popular president Brazil has ever had, is stepping down after eight years that changed the face of the country and transformed its place in the world.
How can it be that a nearly unknown woman, who barely had 8.4% of projected votes two years ago, is about to become the next president of Brazil? Lula’s role, along with his 80% approval rating, has undoubtedly been a key factor. But Lula achieved his phenomenal backing for a number of internal and external reasons that merit close analysis. A phenomenon called lulismo was born during his eight-year presidency that explains Dilma’s success.
Electio results show that Rousseff, candidate for the ruling PT (Worker’s Party), got 46.9% of the vote, followed by social democrat José Serra of the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) with 32.6% and the ecologist Marina Silva (Lula’s former minister) with 19.3%. On October 31, the day of the second round of votes, Dilma will need four million more votes to become president.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

David Bacon on Labor Solidarity

The Key to Organizing Unions
By David Bacon
Monthly Review, October 2010

        When I was a union organizer, I had an experience that dramatized for me the importance of the cultural and historical traditions that immigrants from Mexico bring with them when they come to the United States, and how they affect the way people organize.
I was working for the United Electrical Workers, one of the most progressive U.S. unions. We were contacted by workers at a huge sweatshop, Cal Spas. Unhappy with low wages and abusive conditions, they began to organize a union. Then the head of the workers' organizing committee was beaten up in the middle of the street in front of the plant. It was an obvious effort to scare the workers and make them stop organizing.
   That night, the workers' committee met and discussed what should be done. Many had no legal immigration status. They had no resources, or even food at home in some cases, because their wages were so low. Yet most people wanted to strike.
   But they did have one big question. They wanted to know if a strike was legal. I told them that strikes under those circumstances in the United States were legal, and they decided that this would be their course of action. The next day, they held a big rally at lunchtime in front of the plant. The committee got up on the back of a flatbed truck and made speeches about the beating and intimidation. At the end of the rally, the committee asked the workers not to go back to work. Hundreds of workers set up picket lines, and the strike was on.
       The next morning, however, there were dozens of people at the plant office, applying for jobs. The company spent a day signing them up. The following morning, the police arrived in a massive show of force. Escorted by the cops, these new workers crossed the picket lines and went to work.
        The strike committee turned to me. One worker, in a tone that indicated he thought I had lied to them, said that I had promised the strike would be legal. I said it was, and they pointed to the strikebreakers. How can it be legal, they asked, if there are people going in to work?

Different Concepts of Rights

    The difference in understanding is crucial. They meant one thing when they said legal, and I meant another. In Mexico, during a legal strike, workers can put red and black flags across the doors into the plant, and the company must remain closed until the strike is over. No one can legally go in to work. The problem, of course, is that it is very difficult for most workers to get legal status for independent unions and strikes.
In the United States, unions do not have to be registered with the government, and anyone can form one. But there is little real legal protection for unions, and they have few rights. A company can legally break a strike, just as Cal Spas did.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Runoff to decide the Presidency of Brazil

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Dilma Rousseff was leading late Sunday in her bid to be Brazil’s first female president, but election officials said she had failed to come up with enough votes to avoid a second round.
With about 98.5 percent of the votes counted, Ms. Rousseff, the former chief of staff of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, had 46.7 percent of the votes to 32.7 percent for her closest rival, the former governor of São Paulo, José Serra. Ms. Rousseff needs to exceed 50 percent of the vote total to win outright.
With Ms. Rousseff coming up short, the election will now be decided with an Oct. 31 runoff. Ms. Rousseff was denied her victory by a strong showing by a third candidate, Marina Silva, the Green Party candidate and a former environmental minister, who captured more than 19 percent.
Analysts expressed little doubt that Ms. Rousseff, 62, would prevail in a second round against Mr. Serra. Despite her lack of political experience and public charm, she has ridden a wave of prosperity and good feeling in Brazil under the leadership of Mr. da Silva, whose approval ratings hover near 80 percent.