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New Ground 47
July - August, 1996 Contents

The Power of Public Education By Deborah Meier 38th Annual Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner a Great Success By Carl Shier Introducing Michael Heffron New Party Update by Bruce Bentley A New Organizing Approach to Politics: The Labor Party The DNC Throws a Party by Bob Roman Center for Democratic Values Launched at Socialist Scholars Conference by Kathy Quinn Illinois Is Still a War Zone by Bob Roman Other DSA News by Bob Roman Midwest DSA Conference Chicago DSA Membership Convention 20th Congress of the Socialist International AntiSweatshop Campaign America Needs a Raise J. Hughes

The Power of Public Education

By Deborah Meier As I look out at so many familiar faces, I want to pay tribute to many. But if I start, I'll never stop and I'll leave some out by mistake. But there are two families in the audience tonight whose influence on me were the most powerful: Carl and Marian Shier and Saul and Jennie Mendelson. I met them over forty years ago when I first came to Chicago. Each in their own way contributed to my moral and intellectual development, and to the pictures in my head of what it could be like to live a full and joyous life. Thank you. And while I didn't personally know all three of the public figures in whose name we are being honored here, all influenced me greatly. Of course, I did personally know Norman Thomas and, above all, Michael Harrington. And I miss them both very much in these difficult times. My early years of activity in the democratic socialist movement were spent here in Chicago. They made a deep impact and lie at the heart of my way of thinking as a teacher. There are two quotes from Eugene V. Debs that sum up my educational philosophy. I'd like to speak tonight about both. Together they are my credo. I'll begin with the one then later pick up the second. I would not lead you to the promised land, said Debs, because if I could lead you there, another could lead you back again.

I believed this before I began to teach, and it took time for me to see how it applied to teaching. It lies behind good union or community organizing, after all: don't do for others what they can do for themselves. All other forms of education lead to loss of power; this form alone leads to lifelong power.
...I don't want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of the capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into this promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in, someone else could lead you out. - Eugene V. Debs

Becoming a teacher, however, happened by accident. I was not, in my youth, in love with little kids and I thought of teaching as "typical" women's work. To be avoided. But then I had three children, and needed extra cash and convenient hours. So I figured I'd do a little subbing in local Chicago schools; what could be an easier way to make some money? Of course, it wasn't easy. But I learned a lot- mostly about how disrespectfully we treat each other in our public schools. So when I had a chance to teach morning kindergarten across the street from my house, I leaped at it. To my surprise, I found being a kindergarten teacher the most emotionally and intellectually invigorating experience! Teaching, I realized, could be interesting- for both the adults and the kids. I read more books than I had ever read before, woke up with more enthusiasm and bored all my political friends by my stories and ideas. This enthusiasm has lasted a lifetime and I still can't get enough. But if I were to stay in education, I knew I couldn't put up with the level of mutual disrespect. What amazed, during my years as a sub, was that children came back, day after day, and that teachers did too. It seemed admirable but sad. It couldn't be good for our society. Suppose, instead, we took Debs' quotation to heart and assumed schools were where we learned to "lead ourselves", to be the rulers of a democratic country. What would happen if schools were "simply" interesting places that treated everyone respectfully. What would happen if we kept the spirit of kindergarten alive forever. I concluded that it would be very good for democracy. For one thing, when we get into the habit early of expecting to be treated disrespectfully, it has a life-long impact. And when we get into the habit of expecting learning to be both boring and irrelevant, we spend our life avoiding learning. These are hard habits to break and neither are good for democracy. How odd that we invented schools for a democratic society that so ill serve it needs. I've done nothing else for the past thirty years but try to see how one might go about reinventing schools to serve democracy, rather than serve to undermine it. Thirty years later I've concluded that schools, to accomplish this, need to be small enough for everyone to know each other, places where everyone's voice is heard and counts; and places we all want to be. Once we get these three right then we need to attend to the "details": what and how we teach! Small self-governing schools of choice- while not easy to organize- produce impressive results no matter how we measure them. If we knew how to use them even better it would be even better- and we're learning every day. If we spent the kind of money on the schools that most children attend as we do on the schools the rich send their kids to, that would make it a heck of a lot easier to do. And finally, if the larger public treated the expertise of those closest to the classroom- kids, parents and teachers- with greater respect, that would help a lot. Twenty-two years ago, in New York's inner city, I got a chance to gather some colleagues together to organize a school around these simple propositions. More money we didn't get. Greater official power we didn't get. We took as much as we could- unofficially. Central Park East Elementary school was started in 1974 for a few hundred children in East Harlem. It's popularity soon required us to start two other schools in East Harlem. Ten years later a study of the three schools discovered that while its students' families were typical New Yorkers- largely Black and Latino and mostly poor- the results were not typical. Four or five years later, over 90% graduated high school and two-thirds went on to college. Based on this, we agreed, in 1985, to start a secondary school for both our own elementary school graduates and for other neighborhood youngsters. Once again, the data is clear: 90% of our incoming students graduate and more than 90% go on to college,

mostly to four year schools. To accomplish this, the school built an alliance between families and staff that made it possible for a whole village to raise kids together. This an empty slogan in too many of our large, anonymous school buildings. But it is not an impossible dream. Today we've taken our ideas and translated them into dozens and dozens of schools in New York. Our latest success-inthe-making is in the south Bronx, where we've opened six new small schools to replace a failing large neighborhood high school. And the kids and their families are responding. Don't be fooled. Families today care as much as they ever did. They will respond if schools join with them in ways that make us all more powerful not just all more guilty. Our schools teach kids how to spell and multiply, but even more basic, they teach what it means to be a powerful and thoughtful citizen. We've created schools where the work of the school is valuable and valid and where the relationships between people are respectful and interesting, across generations. Kids who grow up alienated from the influence of grown-ups and grown-up enterprises are not the best prospects for carrying out our shared democratic agenda. So we made sure that kids in our schools were known well by the grown-ups, built strong ties and relationships and belonged to a genuine cross-age community. Good schooling is built on the oldest idea around: you learn by the company you keep. Kids must belong to cohort groups that include younger and older students, novices and experts; youngsters and adults. Their teachers, at least some of them, must be people whom they regard as allies, as the kind of people they can and might grow up to be. Schooling must be designed so that all the parts send the same message: messages on behalf of the value of using your mind well. At Central Park East we call these the "habits of mind" of a well - educated person. We demand of our students that they demonstrate such habits over and over again in a series of increasingly complex tasks until they satisfy us that they deserve a diploma. These same habits of mind are the ones we adults live by too. And we use these habits of mind whether we're inside the classrooms, the halls, the lunchroom or the gym. They are the habits of mind of a powerful citizenry. Getting a good education may or may not solve America's economic problems. It's not a silver bullet. A good education will, however, create a more democratic culture, which can in turn better tackle why we can't have a good society and a strong economy, one that works for virtually all our citizens not just for some.
While there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. - Eugene V. Debs

For a good school lives by Debs' credo. It teaches kids to become the kind of grown-ups who lead themselves to the promised land. But a good school also is a place that lives by my other favorite Debsian quotation,that as long as there's a man in prison, I am not free. A good school cares about all its members, not just its stars. Unless we see all our children's futures as belonging to us, we're in trouble. And if we abandon public education, that is what will happen. Public schooling is the one institution left to us all that we own together and whose future will create our shared future. It is the place where we make decisions about the next generation. That is not something to leave to the so-called free market-place. Making a profit on our kids is not a nice idea. These are issues that go to the heart of democracy, and they belong to all of us. And I mean "all" not just "some of us". But it all begins with asking the basic question that we so often avoid in America. We will not get the answers right if we don't start of by asking: Why? Who cares? What for? I rest my answer on those two quotes from Eugene V. Debs: we need to educate the people well so that the people can rule themselves, and rule themselves with compassion for the weakest of its members, not just the strongest. It's actually a simple idea: but it's the doing of it that is anything but simple. It's all in the details. That's what Maxie Hill and I have both spent our lives doing: tending to those daily details. So I thank you for honoring us tonight.

Since the Debs Dinner, we've all suffered a great loss - my fellow honoree, Maxie Hill, has died. Hearing others that night describe Maxie Hill made me regret I had not known him better. I am proud to have been associated with an organization that honored the kind of trade unionism that Maxie Hill represented, and the kind of human being he clearly was. To have received an honor with him was a proud event for me. We are often best remembered by the company we keep. I was in good company on that evening. A great deal of what I know about education came from people like Maxie Hill, who spend a life time as educators. For good trade unionism is, at heart, an educational enterprise. It influences the way its members see and understand their world; it provides a place to thrash out old ideas and develop new ones, and it helps us develop the habits of heart and mind necessary for a democratic society. So too should schools. It takes to heart the old educational maxim: we learn best by doing. Good teachers, like good union organizers, need to be good listeners and resourceful facilitators of other people's dreams and aspirations. Maxie Hill was all of that. - Deborah Meier

38th Annual Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner a Great Success

By Carl Shier The 1996 Eugene V. Debs - Norman Thomas - Michael Harrington Dinner was another great success. The Dinner Committee has received many compliments on the event: the food and, especially, the speech by Deborah Meier. Once again trade unions support made the Dinner a financial winner. Reserved tables were purchased by the Chicago Federation of Labor, AFSCME, UAW, Teamsters, UNITE, Cornfield and Feldman, Marco Consulting, Bakery Workers Local 1, PNHP, and University Professionals. The Program Book reflected the support the Dinner has received from the labor movement and friends over the years. Ads and greetings saluting the Awardees of the Dinner filled the pages. It was a very impressive publication. Roberta Lynch, Deputy Director of AFSCME Council 31, was a great Master of Ceremonies. Roberta Lynch made the 104th Congress and the do-nothing Illinois legislature the target of barbed attacks. Former Packinghouse leader and Congressman Charles Hayes' introduction of Bakery Workers Local 1 President Maxie Hill included references to the variety of activities Maxie Hill had participated in: the Farm Workers boycott campaign, the Illinois Labor Network Against Apartheid, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists where he was a top officer in Chicago, and the Jewish Labor Committee Board. Charles Hayes mentioned that as a past Awardee, he was proud to present the 1996 Award to Maxie Hill. In his acceptance speech, Maxie Hill spoke of what the labor movement had meant to him. It allowed him to work giving people the contracts that provide them with a decent life. It gave him the opportunity to participate in the movement for social and economic justice. It's sad to report that nine days after the Dinner, on Mothers Day, Maxie Hill passed away. Maxie Hill's huge funeral was a testimony to his life as a trade unionist and a movement person. Charles Hayes, Sid Ordower and Gil Cornfield spoke as well as Frank Hurt, the President of the Bakery Confectionery and Tobacco Workers Union. DSA Executive Director Alan Charney spoke for DSA at the Dinner. He reported on DSA's work. One of our projects was picked up by the new officers of the AFL-CIO and is now a nationwide America Needs a Raise campaign.

Charney's speech was well received. The Deborah Meier's acceptance speech will be long remembered. Debbie Meier's style of delivery, her cogent comments on public education and her experience at Central Park East were great to hear. Deborah Meier's work and her book, The Power of Their Ideas, is still going strong. We sold out all the copies we had at our literature table. In These Times of May 27 had a rave review by Gerald Graff, Pullman Professor of English and Education at the University of Chicago. Bob Kuttner, in his preface to an excellent issue of American Prospect (May June, 1996), included a quote from her book: "Public schools offer opportunities for a sense of community otherwise sorely missed, for putting faces and names to people we might otherwise see as mere statistics or categories.... [D]emocratic conversation is often loud and rude, and sometimes leaves scars and neighborly hostility. But if democracy survives such hostility, it's because we assume we're members of a common club, stuck with each other. Public schools can train us for such political conversation across divisions of race, class, religion and ideology." The broad family of the democratic left who attended the Dinner left the Congress Hotel, felling great and pleased at having been there. One cannot conclude a report on the 38th Annual Dinner without shouting to the roof tops the wonderful work that Bob Roman does. No Dinner can possibly be successful without the person who gets out the material, lays out the Program Book after sending out the forms on how to participate, meeting with the hotel catering department on what food to have, coat racks, bars, etc., and sending out tickets. One needs a pro and Chicago DSA and the Debs - Thomas Harrington Dinner Committee has a pro at the helm. As one who sells, year in and year out, tickets, tables, ads and greetings, I can speak on this subject with some authority. Thanks, Bob, for a job well done....

Introducing Michael Heffron

Hiya! My name is Michael Heffron, and I am the new addition to the national staff of DSA. I have been asked to write a small introductory piece about myself for New Ground, but before I delve into my role as Midwest Organizer, I would like you all to know a little bit about me. I just graduated from beautiful Ohio University, where I majored in Political Science and minored in Spanish. I was the co-chair of our DSA-Youth Section chapter for three years and was also involved with other organizations, such as Women's Affair's Commission of Student Senate, where I ended up as it's vice-commissioner my senior year. I also have worked at the DSA office as an intern, and was the corresponding secretary of the Youth Section leadership for a year. Aside from activism, I worked as a club DJ, so if you have any events that require musical services, don't be afraid to ask. And in my spare time, you might find me dancing at a club with a Saranac Black and Tan in my hand (yes, I'm a beer snob). Beginning on June 17th, my first priority will be to traverse the midwest in my little gray car, visiting every major DSA enclave along the way. My idea is that the more I listen to you, and find out what you need, the better equipped I will be to do my job. Each local and chapter follows both a national agenda and a local agenda, and I want to be part of assisting both. I would also like to acquaint myself with each and every member of DSA in the midwest. Having a face to put behind that mysterious organizer is always helpful in building a better organization, so if you hear I am coming to your area, try your best to make the meeting. Besides listening, I will also have information that will let you know the direction that DSA is currently heading. Having been present at both of the meetings with the AFL-CIO leadership, I can answer any questions you might have about this new, history-making relationship. I will also know of the most up-to-date decisions of the National Political Committee and the Youth Section Coordinating Committee, the dates of DSA conferences and congresses, and any other information that might be helpful to building a stronger DSA presence in the midwest. Unfortunately, one of the necessary duties of my job will be fundraising my own salary. Fundraising for this position has been divided into three elements: 1) direct mailings, 2) fundraising dinners, and 3) volunteer phone-banking. Much

of the work required of first and second fundraising components can be done from my office in Columbus, but the third part of the fundraising must be done by individual midwest DSA volunteers. Therefore, during my visits to all of the locals and chapters, I will be training those volunteers who wish to help sustain my organizer job. No one is less excited about the part of fundraising than I, but it is one of the activities that will be crucial in determining whether we can have an organizer that specifically meets the needs of midwest DSAer's. I will be in Columbus for a few days until I begin my mini-tour of the midwest, so feel free to call me there (614) 2532571. I will be moving in with our very own Bob Fitrakis, and will be acquiring some sort of mobile communications, so if I am not available, he will be able to tell you how to reach me. And please feel free to call me up and introduce yourself at any time. I plan to burn the midnight oil, especially these first few months, so I should be available most hours of the day. See you all soon . . . In Loving Solidarity, Michael Heffron

New Party Update

by Bruce Bentley The Chicago New Party is increasely becoming a viable political organization that can make a different in Chicago politics. It is crucial for a political organization to have a solid infrastructure and visible results in its political program. The New Party has continued to solidify this base. First, in relation to its infrastructure, the NP's membership has increased since January '95 from 225 to 440. National membership has increased from 5700 in December '95 to 7000. Currently the NP's fiscal balance is $7,000 and receives an average of $450/month is sustainer donations. Secondly, the NP's '96 Political Program has been enormously successful with 3 of 4 endorsed candidates winning electoral primaries. All four candidates attended the NP membership meeting on April 11th to express their gratitude. Danny Davis, winner in the 7th Congressional District, invited NPers to join his Campaign Steering Committee. Patricia Martin, who won the race for Judge in 7th Subcircuit Court, explained that due to the NP she was able to network and get experienced advice from progressives like Davis. Barack Obama, victor in the 13th State Senate District, encouraged NPers to join in his task forces on Voter Education and Voter Registration. The lone loser was Willie Delgado, in the 3rd Illinois House District. Although Delgado received 45% of the vote, he lost by only 800 votes. Delgado commented that it was due to the NP volunteers that he carried the 32nd Ward. Delgado emphasized that he will remain a visible community activist in Humbolt Park. He will conduct four Immigration workshops and encouraged NP activists to get involved. The Chicago NP will hire a second organizer and an intern, preferably Spanish speaking, to work in the 35th Ward. Upcoming events include a 70's Retro Dance Party on Friday, July 12th, and Post Labor Day Picnic on September 7th.

A New Organizing Approach to Politics

As passed by the Labor Party Convention, June 8, 1996 Our labor party exists in order to build a powerful movement around our new agenda for working people that promotes

and protects our rights. We believe that the best way to build this movement is to develop a new, dynamic organizing approach to politics that rejects politics as usual.

Our organizing approach to politics will promote a new agenda by recruiting and mobilizing hundreds of thousands of working people to engage in common non-electoral political activities throughout the year, not just on election day. Our organizing approach to politics will recognize that electoral action comes only after recruiting and mobilizing workers with sufficient collective resources to take on an electoral system dominated by corporations and the wealthy. Our organizing approach to politics will rely on building a movement that promotes actions to force elected officials and candidates to speak to our issues as we define them.

Therefore, we propose that the Labor Party commit its resources to a strategy based on mass recruitment and political actions that go beyond the electoral process to shift the national debate towards our agenda.

We call on the Labor Party to mobilize working people in a bold experiment to develop effective non-candidate / non-electoral political actions that turn our organizing approach to politics into reality. We call on the Labor Party to develop innovative organizing efforts, such as a campaign to restore the right to organize a union, or a constitutional amendment campaign to put the right to a decent job at a living wage directly into the Constitution. We call on the Labor Party to go union to union, local to local, door to door to gather support for the Labor Party and its program. We call on the Labor Party to call a second convention in two years to assess our campaigns, our recruitment process, and to develop the next steps to building our new organizing model of politics. Finally, the Labor Party shall appoint a committee on developing our future electoral strategy to report to the second Labor Party convention. The Labor Party will not endorse candidates of any kind, will not run people for office, and will not spend any Labor Party resources on electoral campaigns, before an electoral strategy is adopted by a national Labor Party convention, nor before we prove capable of recruiting and organizing sufficient numbers of working people around a new agenda.

Approved by the First Labor Party convention June 6-9, 1996 Cleveland, Ohio

The DNC Throws a Party

by Bob Roman The national conventions of the Democratic and Republican "parties" are not like the conventions held by private membership organizations such as CoC or DSA. Very little is really decided at these venues. They serve instead as campaign rallies for presidential candidates already selected by the various state primary elections and as political fairs for the delegates and the public officials attending the event. What happens around the conventions is far more significant than what happens in the conventions. If you are interested in educational efforts directed at a narrow strata of political players, contact your favorite "special interest" group. They are almost certain to be sponsoring some manner of meeting or reception. In the past, DSA has organized a meeting of a "Socialist Caucus" at Democratic National Conventions. There are tentative plans for doing something similar at this convention, albeit rather more policy oriented, around a "Pledge for Economic Justice". And if you are interested in hijacking the media circus that surrounds the convention, there are almost as many opportunities to participate. There are so many, in fact, that an ad hoc group of Chicago activists have come together under the name of Chicago ACT (Chicago August Calendar Team). Chicago ACT hopes to provide coordination for local and national groups who wish to plan an event in Chicago during the convention while also providing a one-stop calendar for activists to participate in these events.

Chicago ACT already has a voice mail / information system operating at (312) 409-2093. The alternative publication Lumpen Times will be providing space on their web page. The URL is http://www.lumpen.com

Center for Democratic Values Launched at Socialist Scholars Conference

By Kathy Quinn The Center for Democratic Values (CDV), a progressive think-tank currently being developed with DSA sponsorship, made its first public appearance at the Socialist Scholars Conference in New York, April 12 - 14. CDV cosponsored two panels at the conference and held a reception to introduce the Center to the assembled socialist scholars and activists. The first panel dealt with rethinking the role of government. The discussion centered around a paper authored by DSA member and CDV organizer David Belkin which challenged the left to seriously reopen the issue of the role of government in a democratic society. Carol O'Clearican, former New York City Budget Director, another member of the panel, stressed the need for the left to pay more attention to organization and management as well as policy and structure, the traditional focuses of socialist theories. Joe Schwartz, a DSA member and professor at Temple University, also spoke. As chair of Philadelphia DSA, I participated in the second CDV sponsored panel, which was titled "The Next Left". The panel was chaired by DSA National Director Alan Charney. It featured David Sprintzen, head of Long Island's Progressive Coalition, and myself focusing on local organizing, and philosophy professors Steve Bronner and Ron Aronson talking in broader and more theoretical terms about the prospects for progressive organizing. Both panels were well attended, well received, and led into Sunday afternoon's reception which drew a substantial number of people interested in hearing about the project and discussing possibilities for participation. At a Saturday afternoon meeting, Ron Aronson, the person primarily responsible for starting CDV and its major organizer, reported on developments to this point and led a discussion of plans for the future. Right now, organizers are primarily concerning themselves with developing CDV's network of participants. When the network is in place, CDV will act as a conduit connecting left-wing spokesmen with the media. It will collect and disseminate op-ed pieces and letters to the editor, possibly develop a book series, and generally work to insert progressive viewpoints into mainstream debate. Other members are looking to sponsor papers and perhaps conferences to debate important issues in left social theory. The Center has already gone on-line with a Web page which presents the full text of Belkin's article on government to stimulate discussion. Responses to the article are being solicited. CDV members are also planning to institute a listserve for discussion of the issues involved in its plans to influence public opinion. A version of this article appeared in the May, 1996, issue of Delaware Valley Democratic Left. Subscriptions to Delaware Valley Democratic Left are $10 / year from Philadelphia DSA, PO Box 58544, Philadelphia, PA 19102.

How to Join the CDV Discussion

There are a number of on-going venues for discussion, debate and analysis in DSA. The traditional medium is DSA's "internal discussion bulletin", Socialist Forum. This publication is issued, irregularly, three times a year. A subscriptions are available from DSA, 180 Varick St, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10014, for $10. The next issue of Socialist Forum will feature David Belkin's article on rethinking the role of government and a number

of responses, including an article by Ron Baiman. The CDV has also begun a computer mailing list. Computer mailing lists function very much like the traditional internal discussion bulletin, except there is usually no editor and no publication schedule. Participants send their messages to an email address and these messages are resent, as they arrive, to the subscribers. To subscribe to the CDV list, send an email message to theory-request@quantum.sdsu.edu with only this as the message: subscribe. There is also a CDV web page which can easily be found through the DSA address: http://www.dsausa.org/ Finally, DSA has its own mailing list. Its purpose is to facilitate the exchange of ideas and information among DSA members and friends. To subscribe to DSANET, send an email message to dsanet-request@quantum.sdsu.edu with only this as the message: subscribe.

Illinois Is Still a War Zone

by Bob Roman On January 21, 1996, Trailmobile Corp. locked out 1,200 workers in Charleston, Illinois. The workers are represented by IPIU Local 7591. The maker of transport trailers had imposed a wage freeze on Charleston workers in 1992. In its proposal put forward on January 10, the Indonesian-owned company demanded another three years of no wage hikes. Trailmobile has proposed other concessions as well, such as the elimination of job assignment rights for overtime work. The company's giveback demands in Charleston reflect its overall low-wage, runaway shop strategy. Earlier this decade, Trailmobile closed tow union plants in Canada and moved the work to a non-union plant in the United States. Trailmobile was purchased by an Indonesian conglomerate, the Gemala Group, in 1989. The Gemala Group grew out of a foundation which managed business owned by the Indonesian army's Strategic Command. The company is chaired by Sofjan Wanandi. Sofjan Wanandi was once an advisor to Indonesian generals; today he is involved in "tourist development" in East Timor. On June 11th, workers at Trailmobile overwhelmingly rejected the latest contract offer from Trailmobile. The offer was not especially different from the company's original offer last January. The rejection of the original offer led to the present lockout which was instituted to "expedite an agreement", according to Trailmobile. The membership also objected to language in the latest offer which required the union to drop all charges pending before the National Labor Relations Board and which demanded an apology from the local's president for publicizing the Wanandi's family's ties to the Indonesian military. As Local 7591 President Gary Collins observed, "We haven't demanded that Wanandi apologize for the hardship this lockout has imposed on our families...." The June Chicago DSA Membership Convention voted to contribute $100 to UPIU Local 7591. If you would like to help financially, send your contribution to UPIU Local 7591, 1401 Madison, Charleston, IL 61920.

Other DSA News

by Bob Roman The Midwest DSA Conference was held at Roosevelt University on May 4th, the day after the Debs - Thomas Harrington Dinner. It was a small affair this year. It featured Tom Ellett, Alan Charney and DSA's inside the beltway staffer Chris Riddiough.

The meeting also served as a venue for some of the business in organizing a Midwest Region DSA. The Midwest Region DSA was granted its charter at the June National Political Committee in New York, and a staff person, Michael Heffron, has been hired. Michael will be based in Columbus, Ohio, but he will be spending about a quarter of his time in Chicago. The June 8th Chicago DSA Membership Convention elected Bruce Bentley as its representative to the Midwest DSA Steering Committee. It also voted to contribute an additional $2,000 to the Midwest Regional organization.

The June 8th Chicago DSA Membership Convention also elected Marsha Montroy as Treasurer, Kim Jones as Political Education Director, and Gene Birmingham as Secretary. The position of Female Co-Chair is vacant. The meeting also adopted a budget for the coming fiscal year. Among other things,the budget includes funds for a DSA / CDV presence at this year's Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference. The budget is a deficit budget, though not excessively so, but it does mean that Chicago DSA will be doing more fundraising than just our annual dinner. The only controversial business at the meeting was a proposal that Chicago DSA affiliate with the New Party. Ultimately, the meeting voted to, in effect, explore affiliation with both the New Party and the Labor Party [Quite the trick if you do it; my bias stands revealed- RR].

The 20th Congress of the Socialist International will be held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, September 9 - 11. The Congress will be preceded by meetings of the SI Presidium and Council on September 8. The 26th Conference of Socialist International Women will meet on September 6 and 7.

Moving on from its partial victory with the GAP, Chicago Jobs with Justice Workers' Rights Committee continues to target sweatshops in Latin America and the Caribbean. On June 1st, Jobs with Justice organized an informational picketline outside of Watertower Place. Some two dozen participants from the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee, Chicago DSA, WEJ, The Alliance and other JwJ member organizations distributed some 4,000 leaflets detailing the Disney Corporation's use of child labor in Haitian factories. People passing by were not overly sympathetic (Streeterville is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the U.S.) but neither were they hostile. Generally they slunk on by. The campaign is not exclusively targeting Disney but is targeting the entire textile industry, which has moved much of its production to non-union contractors located in Central America, including Kathie Lee Gifford's Wal-Mart Collection, Eddie Bauer and others.

The AFL-CIO brought its "America Needs a Raise" campaign to Chicago on May 29th. Some 500 people attended a rally at St. Malachy School on the west side of Chicago. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney spoke about the growing gap between rich and poor. He mourned the passing of Fordism though he did not use the term. Sweeney also spoke in support of the Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance which had been introduced in the City Council earlier that month. Indeed, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, a co-sponsor of the ordinance, also spoke at the rally. But the very best speaker, a real barn-burner, was Yvonne Delk, the Executive Director of the Community Renewal Society which publishes the award - winning Chicago Reporter. She compared the conservative approach to economic development to a sign from a stage coach that she had seen at a flea market. The sign said that in the event the coach became stuck, first class passengers would remain seated. Second class passengers would disembark. Third class passengers would get out and push.

Part of the purpose of the rally was to take testimony from those most in need of an increase in the minimum wage. Over a dozen people spoke, including Gary Collins, the President of UPIU Local 7591 whose members have been locked out since January. Some of the stories were painful. One woman had been "downsized" from Xerox 9 days before she was eligible for her retirement package. That same year, the company announced the largest profit in its history. The rally was well organized, and it was designed to be more than just a media / feel-good event. The organizers were aggressive about getting people to sign in. ACORN and Jobs with Justice used the occasion to organize support for the Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance. If you weren't able to go, you missed an interesting, significant event. And you missed getting a really cool "America Needs a Raise" button that the AFL-CIO is handing out.

J. Hughes is leaving Chicago for Connecticut in August. His wife, Nickie Bock, has gotten a job at the University of Connecticut, so it's a career move. J. and I have been working, together, on Chicago DSA for the past eight years. It's been mutually rewarding, mutually frustrating, mutually stimulating, mutually productive. He's been a real comrade. I'll miss the dude.

Add yourself to the Chicago DSA mailing list (snail mail and email). Back to top.