Democratic Left Magazine - Fall 2015

Demographics and the Care Crisis

The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America
By Ai-jen Poo, 176 pp., The New Press, 2015

In this slim but engaging volume, Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), argues that an increasingly aging U.S. population requires a drastic shift in an already inadequate care economy. She contends that a sustainable system of care will entail not only accessible, affordable, high-quality care for all who need it but also fair wages and working conditions for the swelling work force providing that care. Public programs must be restructured and the cultural stigma that surrounds care work, aging, and disability in the United States removed. She urges people to work toward better systems of care on every level, from the national to local co-op living arrangements. 

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Labor Pioneers: Their Stories

We stand on the shoulders of those who devoted their lives to the cause of labor. We asked DSA activists to share some of their favorite biographies. This is an evolving list. Check the DL blog for further additions.—Ed.

 

Debs_book_cover2.jpgEugene Debs Though best known as presidential candidate of the Socialist Party, USA (SPUSA) from 1900-1920, Eugene V. Debs first became important as a leader of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, later becoming a founder of the American Railway Union. Debs’s most famous action as a labor leader was the nationwide Pullman Strike, broken by President Grover Cleveland. After helping found the SPUSA, Debs also took part in organizing the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Ray Ginger’s The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs (1949) is rightly hailed as a classic. If you can’t find a cheap used copy, be sure to pick up the 2007 reissue by Haymarket Books, which contains an introduction by veteran Marxist author Mike Davis. —Jason Schulman

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Electronic Global Labor Solidarity

 In 1848, when Marx and Engels issued their ringing call for workers of all countries to unite, it fell on deaf ears. However, by the 1890s, trade unions had begun to operate across borders, creating permanent institutions that are today known as “global union federations,” which unite transport workers, food and agriculture workers, journalists, teachers, and others.

These federations, which have lasted for more than a century, are at the heart of the global labor movement. They represent the promise of working-class internationalism.

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'Fast Track' Opposition Reflects Growing Movement for Democracy

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flushthetpp.org

By Paul Garver

Throughout the spring, liberal Democrats and some Tea Party Republicans, aided by a coalition of labor, environmental, and progressive groups, joined forces against a massive corporate power grab known as “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) only to see it narrowly pass the House by a 218-208 vote in early June. TPA and the accompanying Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bills were signed into law by President Barack Obama on June 29. 

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Will Puerto Rico be the Greece of the United States?

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José La Luz

By José Gutiérrez 

In late June, the governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, announced that Puerto Rico would not incur any more indebtedness and would not be able to meet its current debt obligations.  The crisis has been compared to that of Greece, but the analogy is not correct.  For background and ideas about how activists can become involved, I spoke with José La Luz, a DSA vice chair and veteran trade unionist, worker educator, and human rights activist. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. As Democratic Left went to press, the situation remained fluid.

Gutiérrez: The current situation of Puerto Rico has been compared to that of Greece by some people, by others it has been compared to Detroit. What can you tell us about how you perceive the current economic crisis in Puerto Rico?

La Luz: Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has said that Puerto Rico is the Greece of the Caribbean. The only problem with that is that PR is not a sovereign country. PR is in fact the Greece of the United States, and that is what I want to get across to progressives in the United States. Puerto Rico being its largest territory, the United States bears some responsibility for this debt that has grown to more than 70 billion dollars. It is one of the highest per-capita debts in the world, even higher per capita than Greece.

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DSAers Show Solidarity

We have a special issue of Democratic Left devoted to labor once a year, but DSA locals support unions and the labor movement all year long. Here are some highlights from the past year:

Central Ohio DSA members joined forces with Interfaith Worker Justice to create the Central Ohio Workers’ Center. Members of DSA were key in doing the paperwork to obtain 501(c)(3) status and bringing in a pro bono lawyer. The center’s focus is on know-your-rights outreach to immigrant workers, especially the large Somali community as well as the growing Latino community.

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Worker Centers Expand The Labor Movement

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A paid sick days rally in New York.                                    AmericanProgress.org

By Kim Bobo

Are you discouraged this Labor Day? There’s plenty of bleak news. Wages are stagnant; union representation is declining; Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin have all passed right-to-work laws in the last three years; the Supreme Court may soon gut public-sector unions, and Congress refuses to raise the minimum wage or establish earned sick days.

Still, there is hope. States and cities are raising the minimum wage to levels no one could have imagined just a few years ago. Tens of thousands of low-wage workers are rallying for $15 an hour. Earned-sick-day laws are passing in states and cities across the nation at an unprecedented rate. 

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Walking with Vision for Labor Day

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nwuat.org

By Maria Svart

A union is a group of individuals who get together with their co-workers and approach their boss about conditions at work—together. These individuals are practicing freedom of association. Yet in the capitalist mind, they’re engaged in economic extortion. That’s not a completely wrong analogy, because workers who form a strong union are capable of forcing the boss to share the results of their collective labor more equitably than are non-unionized workers. That’s one thing I learned in my years as a union organizer before joining the staff of DSA: it’s all about power.

That’s why democratic socialists love unions: we want to expand working-class power and restrict capitalist-class power. Unions are where people learn to fight back and win. Strong unions can fight for political reforms. Those political reforms can affect the structure of the economy, thus making it more democratic. This makes unions dangerous to the capitalist class. 

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LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 66 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 30 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

April 04, 2017
· 85 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

What Is DSA? Training Call

April 05, 2017
· 9 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Feminist Working Group

April 12, 2017
· 28 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 23 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 10 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.