People’s Voice October 1-15, 2017

Volume 25 – Number 16   $1

CONTENTS

1) COMMUNIST PARTY, LABOUR, SOCIAL JUSTICE GROUPS SPEAK OUT AGAINST NAFTA

2) CAMI WORKERS STRIKE GM FOR PENSIONS, JOB SECURITY

3) THE WORLD MEETS IN CARACAS TO BUILD SOLIDARITY WITH VENEZUELA

4) SHUT DOWN SITE C NOW, COMMUNISTS URGE

5) BC ELECTORAL FINANCE LAW FALLS SHORT - Editorial

6) WAR DANGER GREATER THAN EVER - Editorial

7) WHERE ARE THE WOMEN IN CUPE?

8) WHY NOT IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON THE U.S.?

9) TOP AFL-CIO LEADERS AND THE HEALTH CARE CRISIS - A DRIVERLESS CAR

10) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker

11) COALITION OF ORGANIZATIONS CRITICIZES BILL C-59

12) PEOPLE IN CRISIS


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PEOPLE'S VOICE      October 1-15, 2017 (pdf)

 

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(The following articles are from the October 1-15, 2017, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)

1) COMMUNIST PARTY, LABOUR, SOCIAL JUSTICE GROUPS SPEAK OUT AGAINST NAFTA

PV Ontario Bureau

            As NAFTA negotiators from the U.S., Canada and Mexico gathered in Ottawa for a third round of talks, the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) held a press conference at the National Press Gallery on Parliament Hill on Sept. 21, and participated in the tri-lateral “Civil Society Summit” on Sept. 23.

            Communist Party leader Elizabeth Rowley delivered the CPC’s demand that Canada immediately withdraw from NAFTA and NATO at a press conference in the Centre Block at Parliament Hill, accompanied by the Parti communiste du Québec’s Adrien Welsh. Rowley described NAFTA as “a continental corporate constitution” and said the “trade” deal “has always been about corporate globalization, and enabling US based, multi-national corporations to become more powerful than elected governments and public institutions.”

            Pointing to the loss of half a million manufacturing jobs, and the 2012 forced relocation of the Caterpillar plant from Ontario to Indiana where workers are being paid half as much, Rowley said even more is now at stake. She stated that the re-negotiations “will not make a bad deal better, and they could easily make it worse for working people who will see their jobs disappear, their wages, pensions and living standards decline further, and their country more and more closely resemble the social, economic and political morass that is the U.S. today.”

            The CPC linked the issue of NAFTA to the military pact of NATO and demanded withdrawal from both. Rowley cited Trump’s recent warmongering speech at the United Nations as “the evidence that proves Canada should not integrate economically, politically or militarily with the U.S. – the world’s most dangerous imperialist power and rogue state.”

            The following day there was a rally and press conference at Parliament Hill organized by the Council of Canadians, Common Frontiers, the Trade Justice Network, Réseau québécois and the Canadian Labour Congress. Organizers read a declaration that was agreed upon by organizations from the three countries.

            The statement states: “Since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994, it is the working people, communities and the environment in all three countries who have suffered, while wealthy investors, big corporations and their executives have reaped more profits and acquired more rights and power. That power has had a negative effect on our democracies.”

            It called on governments to adopt a “new model of integration, cooperation and exchange among nations” that guarantees sovereignty and “respect for human, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.”

            The Communist Party of Canada was part of the rally with a “get out of NAFTA now” banner. A blimp was brought to the rally by the Council of Canadians and Leadnow which read: “NAFTA hijacks democracy; stop ISDS.” ISDS or Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions are embedded in NAFTA. They give corporations the right to sue governments of another country if it introduces laws or policies that hurt corporate profits, no matter if they benefit environmental, health or human rights. For example, Lone Pine is suing the Quebec government for $250 million for its ban on fracking. The corporation claims Quebec has violated its “right” to frack.

            In the afternoon, the “Civil Society Summit” convened two panels for a detailed discussion about the issues surrounding the current re-negotiations. Highlights included the presentation of Indigenous author, lawyer and academic Pamela Palmater who is Mi’kmaq from the Eel River Bar First Nation. She presented a strong case against NAFTA, the TPP and CETA, saying that “trade” deals “are a matter of life and death for Indigenous peoples.” She pointed out that increased corporate power, especially in extractive industry, often means brutal violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada and around the world.

            Palmater said that the current negotiations which include limited consultation with the Assembly of First Nations leadership, in no way fulfill Canada’s supposed commitment to free, informed, prior consent of First Nations. The Trudeau government has said that it would like to see a chapter added to NAFTA that outlines Indigenous rights. However, this rings hollow since the Trudeau government has not said this potential chapter would trump the investment and energy chapters which clearly violate Indigenous rights to sovereignty and self-determination.

            Panelist Alberto Arroyo from the Mexican Network of Action Against Free Trade stated firmly that “no matter how much we improve NAFTA, it is never going to stop violating human rights. It makes human rights something that can be bought and sold.” That is why the labour and peoples’ movements in Mexico are calling for Mexico’s complete withdrawal from NAFTA.

            Elizabeth Rowley urged unity around a clear message to get out of NAFTA. She said that 23 years ago labour and democratic movements were clear in their opposition to NAFTA and that the current position that much of labour has adopted, including the CLC, seems to be that Canada should push for a more labour-friendly version of NAFTA. But this is a serious miscalculation of what NAFTA is. A “progressive NAFTA” is not possible because it has always been a project of multi-national corporations and their governments to override the sovereignty of the people of all three countries.

            The Trudeau government claims it is pushing for a “progressive NAFTA,” with recent statements about wanting to include gender, Indigenous and labour rights. However it is certain that this is a smokescreen to hide the real nature of these re-negotiation talks: a further expansion of corporate power.

            CPC Organizer Drew Garvie linked the rise of the far right with the economic and social conditions created by NAFTA and its built-in austerity policies. “This deal will drive down wages and living standards and open the door further to the ultra-right,” he said.

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2) CAMI WORKERS STRIKE GM FOR PENSIONS, JOB SECURITY

PV Ontario Bureau

            Twenty-eight hundred Cami workers, members of Unifor Local 88 at Ingersol Ontario, walked off the job September 17, after a 99.8% strike vote August 31. It’s the first strike in 25 years and it’s all about Canadian jobs, job security, wages and pensions under NAFTA. 

            Cami workers say their contracts were stripped in the years after the 2008 crisis to aid in General Motors’ recovery. It was also a strip imposed by the Canadian and US governments. But now GM is doing very well indeed with a net profit of $9.4 billion and record earnings in 2016. Autoworkers want back what’s theirs, starting with wages, pensions and job security threatened once more by both NAFTA and GM.

            Twenty-four hundred workers have less than 14 years seniority at the plant, with many dual-income families working at CAMI. The plant has been operating six days a week with mandatory overtime for the past seven years, consistently winning awards for quality, efficiency and productivity. They produce the Equinox, and until recently the Terrain. But despite $560 million investment in a new weld shop, GM has now moved production of the Terrain to Mexico where they can pay much lower wages to autoworkers. Four hundred CAMI workers were laid off when the Terrain left Canada. This is the race to the bottom, and workers at CAMI aren’t about to buy in.

            Local 88 Chairperson Mike Van Boekel said a key demand for the union is that GM declare CAMI the lead plant for Equinox production, which would prevent GM from ending production of the Equinox at CAMI and secure at least some production – and jobs - in Canada.  The union has won similar contract language at Chrysler and Ford, declaring plants in Windsor and Oakville as lead plants in their North American operations under NAFTA.

            According to the union, GM has about 53 days’ supply of Equinox vehicles, but the pressure is on the company to settle during record sales of the popular cars. The union is in a good position to push forward with its demands, and has the support of the labour movement and autoworkers across the province that are also at the mercy of GM and NAFTA.

            Meantime GM operations in St. Catharines are at a standstill, and parts plants employing about 1600 workers in Southern Ontario could also be laid off as the strike continues.

            Communist Party leader Liz Rowley said the strikers have her party’s full solidarity and support, and that it’s another demonstration of why Canada should pull out of NAFTA now, introduce plant closure legislation with teeth, and negotiate multi-lateral and mutually-beneficial trade agreements with the world that respect Canadian sovereignty, jobs, and standards.

            “PM Trudeau and the Liberals say they will defend workers’ rights, but what are they doing to defend manufacturing and auto jobs which are sliding south, like the 400 CAMI jobs, faster every day. NAFTA is killing manufacturing jobs and the only way to stop it is to pull out of NAFTA now and bring in plant closure legislation to stop corporations from leaving Canada for low-waged, unregulated jurisdictions where workers are at the very bottom of the agenda. 

            “Canada needs an industrial and manufacturing strategy that will build value-added manufacturing and secondary industry, create good jobs – not destroy them. Canada should fight for permanent, well-paid, unionized jobs for workers everywhere and here in Canada in the first place,” Rowley added. “The CAMI workers are doing their best to keep these jobs in Canada, under very difficult circumstances, created by the Big Business parties in Ottawa. The NDP should show their support for the CAMI workers – and all workers - by also demanding Canada’s withdrawal now from NAFTA.”

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3) THE WORLD MEETS IN CARACAS TO BUILD SOLIDARITY WITH VENEZUELA

By Drew Garvie

            As the United States continues to threaten invasion and to impose sanctions on Venezuela, representatives of 60 countries assembled in Caracas from Sept. 16 to19. United by the slogan “Todos Somos Venezuela/ We Are All Venezuela”, the meetings and events were described as “dialogues for peace, sovereignty and Bolivarian democracy.”

            Seven delegates from Canada, including solidarity groups Ottawa and Vancouver, activists from Montreal, and the Communist Party of Canada were in attendance.

            The conference opened with a massive gathering in a main theatre in Caracas. Two hundred international delegates were in attendance as well as Chavista activists and members of the newly elected National Constituent Assembly.

            The presidium included Delcy Rodriguez, President of the newly elected Constituent Assembly, Jorge Arreaza, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, and World Peace Council President, Socorro Gomes. Delcy Rodriguez, who is now the target of illegal and shameful sanctions from the Liberal government in Ottawa, delivered a revolutionary keynote. She noted that the capitalist system is responsible for massive crimes around the world pointing to the oppression of the Palestinian and Saharawi people, and the hypocrisy of the imperialist campaign against Venezuela.

            Rodriguez quoted Fidel's definition of a revolution and proclaimed that "in Venezuela we have a revolution." Venezuela is an "imperial target" and a "victim of an unconventional war,"  she said, calling this part of a pattern including Libya and Syria.

            She pointed out the danger of Venezuela is a "threat to the capitalist model", because of its example, and said that Washington’s worry is that people around the world will start "speaking and acting like the Bolivarian Revolution."

            The conference continued with international delegates splitting into workshops to discuss and amend a draft proclamation to be issued in the name of the solidarity gathering. What became the “Proclamation of Caracas” forcefully condemned efforts by violent sections of the opposition at destabilization, the economic war and U.S. sanctions, the disinformation campaign surrounding ‘dictatorship’ in Venezuela (pointing to support for the Constituent Assembly as well as state governor elections this year, and municipal and presidential elections next year). The proclamation clearly denounced the threats of invasion coming from Donald Trump.

            The document demands that the decision of the region to be a “zone of peace” be upheld. It is an urgent call to democratic forces around the world to build solidarity with Venezuela: “The defense of the Bolivarian Revolution is an inescapable duty of the peoples Latin America, the Caribbean and the world; with the understanding that in Venezuela is defending the right to sovereignty, independence, self determination and the integration of our peoples.”

            On the Sunday, delegates took a two-mile gondola ride to a national park high in the mountains overlooking Caracas. The venue was the setting for President Maduro’s weekly television program, that week featuring the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales.

            The program covered a lot of ground. Morales reminisced about his first trip to Cuba as a young trade unionist for a solidarity conference (and not having enough money to fly back to Bolivia), the first time he met Fidel and debates he used to have with Fidel and Hugo Chavez.

            President Maduro told the audience that Trump’s threat of military action against Venezuela “is a threat to the whole world.” He talked about the need to build internationalist solidarity and sharply criticized the "cowardly left" who have repeated the corporate media's lies about Venezuela. Maduro also acknowledged the upcoming centenary of the October Revolution, and paid homage to VI Lenin, the leader of the first socialist revolution.

            In closing remarks, Morales stated that “if Maduro is forced to take on the Empire,” that he and Bolivia will support him. Other notable speakers spoke from the floor, including Fernando Gonzalez, one of the “Cuban Five,” who spent over 15 years in a U.S. prison for trying to stop U.S. backed acts of terrorism in Cuba. Guy-Patrice Lumumba, son of murdered Congolese President Patrice Lumumba, also spoke. Guy-Patrice pointed out that the Belgian and U.S. overthrow of the anti-colonial government in Congo is one example of the crimes of imperialism that is now targeting Venezuela.

            On Monday, delegates heard from General Vladimir Padrino who outlined Venezuela’s “Civic-Military Union”, which has created an “anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic” armed forces ready to resist coup attempts and invasion. The project to transform the military and infuse it with “humanism” and a duty to serve the people of Venezuela was brought about after the 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chavez.

            Other delegates, including several Canadians, toured Vargas province, adjacent to Caracas, where they met with the Minister of Social Movements and Communes, as well as local activists from communes. We saw first hand some of the massive social housing projects, which have housed more than 1.7 million low-income Venezuelans since the “Great Housing Mission” began in 2011.

            On Tuesday, delegates gathered in the theatre again to hear closing remarks from Delcy Rodriguez. We also heard from Aloha Nunez, one of the members elected by Indigenous communities to the Constituent Assembly. Nunez is from the Wayu nation. Before she was elected to the Constituent Assembly this summer, she was the Minister of Popular Power of Indigenous Peoples of Venezuela.

            Nunez cited government policy in 1961 where Indigenous peoples were "not considered people, but animals to be assimilated." Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution changed things.  Nunez said: "The Oligarchy fears the revolution, because it has given rights for everyone to participate. Venezuela means hope for the world. Hope for oppressed minorities that exist everywhere around the world."

            The theme of building of a participatory, distinctly “Bolivarian democracy”, ran through many of the closing remarks, mostly in reference to the Constituent Assembly and the Bolivarian constitution. As Argentine progressive writer Paula Klachko put it when speaking from the floor: "Those that capitalism discarded, here [in Venezuela] they have become protagonists."

            Venezuelans assembled at noon on Tuesday, for a massive “Anti-Imperialist March” through Caracas. International delegates met up with many of the marchers for a large rally outside the Presidential Palace of Miraflores, where Maduro gave a defiant speech reacting to Trump’s warmongering speech to the UN on the same day.

            Maduro denounced the “aggression of the new Hitler, Donald Trump, the racial supremacist… Despite the words of hate and war from Donald Trump, the socialist revolution will continue.”

            At the U.N. Trump had denounced Iran, Syria, Cuba and Hezbollah. He attacked Maduro’s “disastrous rule” and called for intervention in Venezuela. Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea,” a country of 25 million inhabitants.

            In returning to Canada, delegates learned that the Canadian government had decided to impose illegal sanctions on forty officials from the Venezuelan government. This escalation of Canada’s interventionist policy in regards to Venezuela is something that we should take very seriously, because of Canada’s recent history in helping to overthrow the democratically elected governments of Haiti and Honduras.

            Throughout our trip, the delegates from Canada were warmly received by Venezuelans. Our message of solidarity and promise to fight for Venezuela back home earned heartfelt applause in meetings. The conference was successful in proving that Venezuela is not alone, but there is still a lot of work to do to counteract the lies of government and media in Canada. Returning delegates and solidarity organizations in Canada are determined to have the slogan “we are all Venezuela” resonate from coast-to-coast.

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4) SHUT DOWN SITE C NOW, COMMUNISTS URGE

Statement by the BC Committee, Communist Party of Canada, Sept. 17, 2017

            One of the first moves of the NDP government of British Columbia was to ask the BC Utilities Commission to examine the Site C dam and to report on the finances of this project by November 1. In the view of the BC Committee of the Communist Party of Canada, the mandate of this review is too limited in scope to reflect the full devastating impact of this megaproject on the future of British Columbia; but even with this review's shortcomings, Site C is based on faulty economic assumptions, such as projections of 2% annual increases in energy demands, despite the fact that such demand has been flat for over a decade. The construction costs of the project have also been consistently underestimated. The latest estimates by Deloitte LLP, the accounting and financial consulting firm brought in by the Utilities Commission to help answer key questions, vary from $9.2 billion to as high $12.5 billion, further undermining any claims of an "economic net benefit".

            The Communist Party has opposed the destructive, expensive and unnecessary Site C dam project on the Peace River from the beginning, for several important reasons.

            First, the federal and provincial governments have failed in their responsibility to uphold the terms of Treaty 8, which promised the signatory First Nations across a vast area of Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories that they would be able to continue their traditional practices of hunting, trapping, fishing, and collecting medicinal plants “for as long as the sun shines, the rivers flow and the grass grows.”

            As many court cases in recent years have proven, the Canadian state is obligated to engage in meaningful consultations with First Nations regarding economic developments on their traditional territories. The days when governments and corporations could simply ignore the rights of indigenous peoples are gone forever. Site C was driven forward by the former Liberal government of Christy Clark without any effort to gain the full and informed consent of Treaty 8 First Nations, and this is completely illegal, in our view.

            Second, Site C poses a serious threat to the future food sovereignty of British Columbia. The dam will flood some of the best agricultural lands in northern BC, at a time when the Agricultural Land Reserve is shrinking under the pressures of housing development.

            Third, many independent experts have dismissed the arguments by the Liberal provincial government and BC Hydro, that the dam must be built to generate electricity for economic development or export. B.C. Hydro and the province could have chosen to invest in conservation and alternative energy programs such as wind power, which would be far less expensive. There is also the potential to generate hydro power from the Keenlyside, Mica and Duncan dams already in existence as a part of the Columbia River treaty. Built mainly for storage and flood control, these dams have the capacity to generate power with minimal further environmental damage, if there is indeed a market at some point.

            Our view is that one reason for this project is to provide power to expand fracking and natural gas on a massive scale, making British Columbia even more dependent on extraction and export of hydrocarbons and other unprocessed raw materials, The cancellation of the Petronas LNG bid demolishes arguments for an economic strategy based on hopes that energy prices will rebound in the near future, and on claims that a combination of huge tax breaks and low-cost electricity will lure big energy transnationals to make multi-billion dollar investments in British Columbia. Even if the unlikely claims of its backers were true, Site C is a direct threat to the global environment, since it will help fuel the expansion of carbon emissions, which are a key factor in unchecked global warming and climate change.

            To those who argue that Site C is necessary for job creation, we note that the project will only employ about 2200 workers for about two years, barely affecting the total unemployment levels in British Columbia. There are better ways to expand employment in BC, including steps to initiate environmentally sound and economically viable projects that will employ people and provide economic development and growth, including in communities outside Metro Vancouver.

            In short, Site C is a wildly speculative economic gamble, a violation of First Nations treaty rights, an attack on the people and environment of northern BC (and to the global climate), a threat to food sovereignty in our province, and a waste of taxpayers' dollars which could be invested in much more productive forms of job creation. For all these reasons, the Communist Party renews our demand to shut down this project now!

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5) BC ELECTORAL FINANCE LAW FALLS SHORT

People’s Voice Editorial

            The news from B.C.’s provincial capital has been a mixed bag since Christy Clark’s Liberals were finally ejected from office in July by an NDP government backed by three Green MLAs. One issue that deserves immediate attention is the Horgan government’s initial steps on reform of electoral financing. The sight of the former premier at endless rounds of “cash for access” events with powerful corporate interests cost the Liberals their majority, and the NDP and Greens pledged to take big money out of electoral financing. Unfortunately, that includes donations from trade unions, which unlike corporations, are democratically controlled organizations representing working people. Still, big capital has vastly outspent the labour movement, so on balance, this change is likely for the better.

            But there are other flies in the ointment, such as the failure to tackle uncontrolled political contributions at the municipal level. This has led to some of the most expensive civic elections in North America, and the domination of housing policy by big developers and capitalists at the local level.

            Another sore point is the introduction of taxpayer financing of some political parties. This system is widespread among OECD countries, but as in most other cases, it will be applied unfairly. Only parties which receive a minimum of 2% of the vote total will be eligible for per-vote funding, leaving out smaller registered parties (such as the Communist Party of BC) which face the same onerous bookkeeping and reporting requirements as the big parties.

            Nor does the new legislation reduce overall campaign spending limits. As long as the major parties can spend tens of millions of dollars to get elected, campaigns will remain primarily an exercise in advertising, rather than in democratic debate and discussions.

            In short, the Horgan government could have, and should have, done much better on this file.

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6) WAR DANGER GREATER THAN EVER

People’s Voice Editorial

            Those who believe that the latest ominous war threats coming from the White House represent a sea change in US foreign policy are mistaken. The fact is that right from the days of the Monroe Doctrine, the underlying aim of US foreign policy has always been to extend the power and control of Yankee imperialism across the western hemisphere and beyond. Under virtually every administration, both Republican and Democrat, a wide range of economic, diplomatic and military tools have been used to achieve this goal.

            That said, differences in strategies and tactics have a profound impact on global events. Donald Trump’s vow to destroy the entire country of North Korea (more accurately known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK) represents a dramatic escalation of the traditional US tactic of threatening to use overwhelming military force against any rival which challenges its domination. Even when the US launched an illegal war of aggression and occupation against Iraq, the stated aims of the Bush administration did not include the annihilation of the Iraqi people. Anyone who thinks the DPRK leadership should dismiss Trump’s words as the ravings of an erratic president is missing the point: the individual in the White House has his finger on the nuclear button and could destroy the DPRK at any time.

            Clearly, the situation in the Korean Peninsula poses an immense danger. There is no guarantee that a US military attack on the DPRK could be limited in scope. Such a war could easily turn into a wider regional conflict, with catastrophic consequences for the entire planet. Diplomatic efforts to defuse this confrontation are urgently needed, but in the long run, only a massive mobilization of the peoples of the world can begin to dismantle the vast imperialist war machine that endangers our future.

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7) WHERE ARE THE WOMEN IN CUPE?

By Helen Kennedy, Former President, CUPE Toronto; former co-chair, CUPE National Women’s Committee; former member CUPE National Women’s Task Force.

            The chant of “Where are the women” echoed through the halls of the Winnipeg Convention Centre 14 years ago this month. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) had just elected their new Executive Board after 12 years of being led by Sister Judy D’Arcy. As the new Board members strode up the aisles towards the podium, delegates were astounded to see so few women marching toward the swearing in. Including the two highest officers who were male, only three women out of a total of 22 were about to join the Board. The Executive Board of CUPE National had just gone from gender equity – 50% women – to 13% women. Delegates were crushed.

            That was only the beginning of the disillusionment of women in CUPE. Shortly after taking office, new President Paul Moist knew that CUPE women were angry, especially since women make up almost 70% of the union’s membership. For the 2005 Convention, under pressure from the National Women’s Committee, Moist presented a resolution to the National Executive Board to implement a National Women’s Task Force – to make recommendations on programs that will advance women’s equality in the union, including structural change; and report back to the members through the National Executive Board, provincial division conventions and the 2007 National Convention.

            The National Women’s Task Force had a comprehensive process to discuss the situation of women in CUPE and specifically the position of women in leadership. Task Force members held extensive consultations with members across the country.

            The Task Force identified barriers that hindered women’s involvement in their union. Despite the growing awareness of equality in family relationships, CUPE women still carried the primary responsibilities for family and home. Many CUPE women worked in precarious jobs, on contract or in the lower paid CUPE positions in childcare and social services. Harassment was cited as a systemic problem; overall union culture and practices of the union were not seen as welcoming. Ironically, during one NWTF meeting, we were informed that a CUPE local was sponsoring a wet t-shirt contest.

            After their extensive consultation, the National Women’s Task Force presented 54 Recommendations to the 2017 National Convention, which will begin on Oct. 2 in Toronto..

            The first recommendations put forward by the Task Force, in 2007, were the Bargaining Conference for Women, adopting a Code of Conduct at CUPE National meetings and structural recommendations for assuring some representation by women on the National Executive Board. Only the recommendation for the National Women’s Bargaining Conference, and the Code of Conduct were passed at the 2007 Convention.

            The Task Force was disbanded, and notwithstanding those of us who remained on the National Women’s Committee, there was no longer any accountability to the women (and men) of CUPE.

            So where are we now, ten years after the Task Force reported to the National Convention?

            The picture on the tenth anniversary of the Task Force is far less rosy than CUPE has portrayed on their pamphlet going into this convention. Ten years later, we still have two white men in the two National Officer positions. There are only 8 out of 23 women on the NEB – we’ve grown from 13% to 28% women, a measly 15%. Instead of celebrating, CUPE leaders should be taking concrete action. There are remarkable women who have served on the executive board for many years, but they don’t seem to be part of the succession plan for national leadership.

            CUPE has been hobbled with a complicated and out-dated structure, which focuses mainly on geographic representation. Lost in the structure is sectoral, gender and equity representation.

            The structural resolutions proposed by the NWTF included the following: “Create two new full-time Executive Vice-President positions for a total of four full-time National Officers. Of the four National Officers, gender parity shall be applied: two officers must be women and two officers must be men. The gender requirement shall expire at the 2017 Convention.”

            It seems quite depressing that the task force felt that a weaker gender equity requirement and a sunset clause would help to get support from the convention.

            This convention will be debating several major resolutions that deal with structure. Resolution 36, submitted by the National Executive Board, would create yet another Task Force, this one on Governance and structure of the National Union and report to the 2019 Convention. Delegates, however, can take action at this convention by supporting two other resolutions:

- C8, which adds four additional Diversity Vice-Presidents for women, workers with a disability, LGBTII workers and Young Workers.

- Resolution R25, which proposes an additional Executive Officer position.

            These two resolutions are good steps forward, but the proviso in the first that only two can be from one province is a barrier. R25, on the other hand, adds a third national officer who could be a woman. While there is no gender equity proviso, delegates should pass this resolution at this convention and work diligently to ensure that at least one of the three officers elected at the 2019 Convention is a woman who understands the need to restore CUPE as a social union and a leader in women’s movement. Better yet, delegates should ensure that when the new National Executive Board marches down the aisle to be sworn in at this year’s convention, there is no need to chant, “where are the women?”

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8) WHY NOT IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON THE U.S.?

Letter to PM Justin Trudeau, from Randy Caravaggio, Coordinator, Victoria Friends of Cuba

Dear Prime Minister,

            Since 1998 when Hugo Chavez was first democratically elected by a landslide, the Venezuelan opposition has tried to remove his government from office. After many elections and referendums, the opposition has continued to lose since the majority of Venezuelans keep supporting Hugo Chavez’ party.  After the death of Hugo Chavez another election was held and Nicolas Maduro became the democratically elected president. Since the opposition cannot win political power through elections they have resorted to terrorist methods in trying to oust first Hugo Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro.

            In 2002 the opposition attempted a coup by kidnapping President Chavez. After 72 hours they had to release him since tens of thousands of citizens took to the streets demanding that their president be returned. After that the opposition organized a lockout of the oil industry. Workers were not able to get to their jobs and the vital Venezuelan petroleum industry came to a standstill for over 60 days. This amounted in the loss of tens of millions of dollars from the Venezuelan economy. Since these tactics didn’t make the government fall the opposition resorted to even more extreme measures. Political leaders and government workers have been assassinated; roads have been blocked to paralyze the country and restrict people’s movements; molotov cocktails have been thrown; automobiles, schools, hospitals and other government buildings have been set on fire; grocery stores have been looted; people have been shot at and set on fire; rocks have been thrown; people have been intimidated and threatened not to take part in elections and so on. These terrorist tactics are not accepted by any government; no country or people can benefit from such activities.

            Numerous leaders of the opposition have been fully implicated in organizing and supporting these terrorist activities. Their public statements encouraging more violence and destructive action gives plenty of proof of this. While committing these crimes they come out to the international community and state that they are peaceful and democratic while blaming the Maduro government for the repression, violence and mismanaging of the economy. Committing such crimes and stating numerous lies the opposition blatantly calls for regime change, external interference and sanctions.

            It seems that the Canadian government, regarding the situation in Venezuela, has taken and joined the side of the outlaws, criminals and terrorists; at the same time taking orders from the US by imposing sanctions against the Maduro government, attempting to cause a regime change and impose an extremist undemocratic government.

            This is what a double standard looks like. Canada while - having great relations with governments such as the US, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, etc. that constantly abuse human rights, do not respect democracy and rip freedom from their citizenry - at the same time is calling for a regime change in Venezuela. How shameful is that? As the old saying goes: “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

            Why not impose sanctions on the US? They have invaded more countries than any others. They have starved and murdered millions in doing so. US cops are killing their own innocent black people by the hundreds with impunity. How about Israel? They have broken more UN resolutions than any other country by illegally occupying Palestinian Territories, building illegal settlements, imposing an illegal blockade, building an illegal wall, setting up illegal check points, illegally demolishing Palestinian villages and so on. Why not raise a complaint against those horrendous human rights abuses? Or maybe best of all why not look at our own selves. How have we treated and continue to treat our original people? The indigenous people of Canada are the poorest, the most unemployed and the last to receive any justice if at all. Why is the Maduro government such an evil government when it has reduced poverty and unemployment, given healthcare, education and housing to its poorest citizens? The statistics are all there if the Canadian government cares enough to honestly open its eyes to see them.

            This picture of Canada mimicking the US by taking the side of Venezuelan terrorists opposing a democratically elected government has everything wrong with it. If Canada wants to stand for freedom and democracy then let us start in our own house and show an example. Meddling in the internal affairs of Venezuela - where in the last 19 years since Hugo Chavez was democratically elected and continuing with Nicolas Maduro the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans are better off today than ever before - is the wrong thing to do. The people of Venezuela and Canada do not need the Canadian government to mimic the US by imposing sanctions and supporting a terrorist opposition. We have seen what happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Imperial external forces only brought more suffering and destruction to these countries. Is this what Canada wants to see in Venezuela? Whatever happened to the so called engagement, diplomacy and noninterference that Canada was so keen in espousing for in the past?

            We, the Victoria Friends of Cuba, demand that the Canadian government:

- stop its aggressive involvement in Venezuela’s internal affairs and stop imposing illegal sanctions.

- demand from the Venezuelan opposition that they stop using terrorist activities, start acting in Venezuela’s best interest and not for their own private gain, and that they sit with the elected Venezuelan government to resolve whatever problems exist through peaceful and constructive negosiations like the Maduro government has called for on numerous occasions.

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9) TOP AFL-CIO LEADERS AND THE HEALTH CARE CRISIS - A DRIVERLESS CAR

By Ed Grystar, from mltoday.com

            With public opinion polls consistently showing health care a top concern among the U.S. population, single payer's popularity growing, and 116 Congressional Democrats now co-signing HR 676, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, the AFL-CIO Executive Council recently passed a resolution calling their "core goal" the "expeditious" move to a system "like" Medicare for All.

            While calling for a single payer system "like Medicare for All" is positive, it should be noted that the resolution calls for "no specific path" which in practical terms means there's no organized plan of action that CLCs and unions are encouraged to implement or organize around. Since they call for no plan of action, there is no budget or resources committed to implementing this resolution.

            One has to wonder how the AFL-CIO's "core goal" of attaining Medicare for All will ever occur.

            Incredibly, HR 676, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All is not even mentioned in the resolution even though it has the support of over 600 labor organizations around the nation according to the Unions for Single Payer Healthcare.

            In 2009, the AFL-CIO actually referenced HR 676, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All in its health care resolution. So in 2017, in a time of unprecedented right wing assaults access to health care and an opportunity to move boldly forward, labor's top leadership seems to be going backward.

            Instead, mentioned are the "reforms" of the public option and lowering the Medicare age as practical goals. Long time single payer advocates, the respected doctors of the Physicians for National Health Plan have shown why these are not "solutions" that in any way challenge or alter the current health care delivery system controlled by for-profit private health care insurance. Unfortunately, the current health care problems that the resolution says should be addressed and are excerpted from the resolution below are intrinsically part of the for profit insurance based health care delivery system, which has existed long before Trump became president and today's Republican control of all branches of the federal government.

            If Congress and President Trump are truly interested in improving health care for working people, there are many things they could do. They could start by addressing problems that matter most to people, like hollowed-out coverage with deductibles that are far too high for the typical person, unjustified spikes in prescription drug prices and the “Cadillac Tax” on high-cost health plans."

            These are real problems but they are part and parcel of the Affordable Care Act which was passed in 2010 by Democrats with the full support of the AFL-CIO. Top CEOs of the insurance industry made over 9 BILLION just in compensation since the passage of Obamacare. Picking up on the "fix it" mentality, a bipartisan group of forty in the House of Representatives labeled as the "problem solvers" has cobbled together a reactionary package of proposals that will further erode coverages and continue subsidies to the insurance companies, thereby stabilizing the for-profit system and making the problems even worse. One fix is to raise the ACA mandate for employer offered insurance from fifty full time workers to 500 which will force many workers out of coverages and throw them into the individual health insurance market.

            Another "fix" would allow insurers to reduce benefits by offering cheaper, skinnier plans. The costs of premiums might go down but higher deductibles will shift even more costs to patients. PNHP correctly calls this bipartisan compromise, "the selling of cheap, worthless plans." None of these problems can be "solved" in the context of the for-profit insurance based delivery system which needs public subsidies and mandated enrollment to even exist. By sitting on its hands and refusing to publicly mobilize the growing grassroots support for Medicare for All, the AFL-CIO gives credibility to these phony solutions. The health care crisis is systemic and requires a vision that challenges the dictates of the for-profit big Pharma/insurance-run setup.

            Because the business union leadership of the AFL-CIO is tied to capitalism, their solutions can not challenge the fundamentals of the profit making of corporate America. Nor can labor's reliance on the corporate-controlled political hand maidens of the Republican and Democratic parties offer the kind of program that speaks to the needs of everyday workers. The mainstream media, drunk on advertising from many of these health care corporations, has essentially banned single-payer as part of the debate even though it has the support of a sizable part of the population.

            This totally inadequate response to the healthcare crisis has exposed the bankruptcy of the top labor bureaucracy and their support for free market solutions, bipartisanship, and "partnership" with corporate America. They are unable to formulate any long or short term strategy that first protects the workers, because to do so would fundamentally challenge the ability of the private sector to provide solutions.

            With an anxious and restless public looking for solutions and the single payer movement gaining strength, it would be an understatement to say that both the union rank and file and the public are ready for far more. What the working class and general public needs is principled labor leaders with an independent fighting strategy that builds on the growing base of public support for Medicare for All.

            A real plan of action that organizes and mobilizes the growing momentum for single payer is the only way to alter the terms of the political debate and change the balance of power so that the idea of health care a human right, not "stabilizing the insurance markets" is put front and center. This is not only necessary but a totally practical plan given the current atmosphere. Labor still has the necessary resources that can get such a public effort off the ground.

            Unfortunately, the way forward won't be found in this resolution. We must work to make it happen.

            (Ed Grystar is former representative for the PA. Assn. of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals, and was president of the Butler County United Labor Council (PA), AFL-CIO, from 1987 to 2003.)

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10) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker

Dylan's Nobel Prize Lecture

Bob Dylan ruffled feathers in Oslo last October by skipping the Nobel Prize ceremony, sending a written statement instead. He left it to rock poet Patti Smith to deliver a memorable rendition of his song "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" to the assembled dignitaries. But his Nobel Prize Lecture, submitted on June 6th, makes amends for any perceived slight. It comes as a 27-minute audio recording, complete with tinkling piano accompaniment. Dylan asks himself just what his songs have to do with literature. He tells anecdotes about early musical influences, Buddy Holly and Leadbelly, and describes how he explored "the devices, the techniques, the secrets, the mysteries" of the vast trove of American folk music which formed the basis of his songwriting. He then turns to literature, citing novels read in school, the themes of which "worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or unintentionally.” What follows is a fascinating retelling of the events, characters, and feel of Melville's Moby Dick, Remarque’s anti-war classic, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Homer’s The Odyssey. Dylan concludes with a reminder that “lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page.”

 

Cash family condemns racist violence

The children of American country music star Johnny Cash have condemned the action of a Charlottesville, Virginia white-supremacist who wore a t-shirt bearing the singer's face, saying their father would have been sickened by the sight. The family's statement was posted on Facebook on August 16 by Cash's daughter, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash. The image of Cash on a racist's t-shirt circulated widely on YouTube in the aftermath of fascist torchlight parades and street violence in Charlottesville on August 11-12. The far-right's fury culminated in the killing of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, and the injuring of 19 other anti-fascists. James Alex Fields, 20, a Nazi sympathizer, was charged with second-degree murder after ramming his car into the crowd. "Johnny Cash was a man whose heart beat with the rhythm of love and social justice", the family statement says. "The white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville are poison in our society, and an insult to every American hero who wore a uniform to fight the Nazis in WWII". Johnny Cash, who died in 2003, opposed the Vietnam war, championed indigenous peoples' rights, spoke out against against antisemitism, and was a prominent advocate for prisoners' rights.

 

Text messages of the Apocalypse

In this era  of instant communication, news shared in peer-to-peer conversation makes connections ignored by the corporate media. Such can be inferred from "Text Messages of the Apocalypse", a new tune by topical songwriter David Rovics. The song, released on YouTube, is a dialogue between two Americans in environmental disaster zones at opposite ends of the country: "I got a text from Tampa as the hurricane approaches / The biggest ever seen / We're seeking higher ground here / How are you out west In the land of the evergreens?" / "I got a cloth upon my face, hibernating in place / As the ash falls all around / But at least I'm in the northwest, breathing smoke from all the fires / Instead of the in the southeast being drowned."  This dramatic exchange might well lead one to ask: how come mainstream media downplays the links between these extreme weather patterns? Corporate control of the media is the obvious answer. "Text Messages of the Apocalypse" suggests a response that's as old as digital technology is new. We can by-pass corporate media distortions by communicating directly with one another. Of course, but organizing collectively to fight the system is even better.  

 

Changing Cuban music scene in Miami

Young people in Miami who love Cuban music are growing indifferent to the political divisions of the past, says a recent article in the Miami Herald. According to journalist Vilma Canalejo, more and more Cuban musicians are frequenting the Florida metropolis. Until recently, it's been difficult for local impresarios to book artists from the island, but last year's thaw in Cuban-U.S. relations opened the door. So far, the Trump Administration's anti-Cuba rhetoric has not put a halt to the trend. Javier Otero, who manages Cuban artists Buena Fe and Los Van Van, and has produced concerts for Silvio Rodriguez, says that Cuban musicians are attracted to Miami because of the presence of big record companies, and the opportunity to be heard on radio and television. Miami is the host city for the industry’s top international awards, like the Latin Grammys, and the Latin American Music Awards. While the frequency of Florida appearances by Cuban artists has increased, there are occasional political flare-ups. The popular duo Buena Fe, for example, cancelled a U.S. tour last December after people in Tampa complained about their public homage to Fidel Castro following his death.

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11) COALITION OF ORGANIZATIONS CRITICIZES BILL C-59

            Forty prominent organizations and individuals from across Canadian civil society have issued a joint letter to government that lays out overarching concerns with Bill C-59, “An Act respecting national security matters.”

            The letter argues that while Bill C-59 makes what it calls “some meaningful and necessary improvements to Canada's national security regime”, but it fails to reverse the legacy of the Harper government’s Bill C-51, and introduces serious new problems. The signatories all share the concern that the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Charter are still not where they belong, at the core of Canada's national security framework.

            They say that Bill C-59 reverses some, but certainly not all, of former Bill C-51's excesses. It creates new bodies to review and control national security activities; introduces a detailed and explicit new law for Canada's signals intelligence agency, the CSE; adds new protections for the rights of youth involved in terrorism-related offences; and reforms the terrorist speech offences introduced by Bill C-51.

            "Bill C-59 brings forward important and useful changes to Canada's existing anti-terrorism laws,” says Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director, National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), “but it leaves us with ongoing concerns about the lack of due process around the no-fly list and the strengthening and deepening of CSIS powers, given the damage the spy agency has done to Canadian Muslims. Well known Canadian Muslims have been discriminatorily profiled and rendered to torture by Canada for no reason other than their faith and identity. At the same time, Canadian Muslims have been subject to rising hate crimes and violent attacks by individuals for the same reason. National security policy that is incapable of protecting all Canadians equally is not worthy of our endorsement, even if it is a significant improvement over more odious previous legislation."

            The signatories also identify a number of specific aspects of Bill C-59 which require serious attention and meaningful change, including:

- The newly-renamed Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act still permits far too much information to flow between too many departments, and to further concerning objectives;

- The no-fly list still lacks adequate due process while proposed redress mechanisms remain unfunded;

- The bill fails to reverse the low threshold Bill C-51 set for terrorism peace bonds;

- The preventative detention powers introduced in 2001 are still in place and remain deeply problematic;

- The risk for abuse of CSIS disruption powers is reduced, but the government has yet to demonstrate either their necessity or constitutionality;

- The newly created oversight agencies lack the guarantees necessary to ensure their effectiveness;

- The general risk that our security activities will once again contribute to torture remains;

- CSE "active" cyber security powers (i.e. offensive hacking) are introduced without a rationale for their necessity or measures to adequately prevent abuse;

- The new bill fails to reverse the erosion of due process C-51 extended in security certificate proceedings; and

- The bill legitimizes troubling conduct, including mass surveillance by our foreign intelligence agency and extensive data-mining.

            The full text of the letter can be found at the website of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, https://ccla.org/

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12) PEOPLE IN CRISIS

By Rob Gowland, from The Guardian, weekly paper of the Communist Party of Australia

            The capitalist media are often seized with not just surprise but amazement when ordinary people pull together to help one another in times of crisis, as so many Americans did after Hurricane Irma. Such “human interest” stories are always given prominence, even ahead of stories about baby animals.

            But why should examples of common humanity take them so much by surprise? Because, dear reader, they’re the capitalist media, and capitalism is all about looking out for number one, “get yours, and get it first”, and Devil take the hindmost! So when ordinary people set aside all considerations of personal profit to help their neighbours it runs counter to the entire ethos of capitalism and must be treated as extraordinary and exceptional. After all, it would never do for people to become used to the idea of helping your neighbours, for it to become the norm. Some smart aleck might point out that that is what people living under socialism do!

            Paul Buchheit, writing in US web journal Common Dreams, made the point that “except for brief surges of generosity after cataclysmic events, big corporations have little incentive to provide for the long-term well-being of people struck down by catastrophe.” And those brief surges of generosity usually have more to do with being seen as “good PR” than with any actual desire to help others. If it isn’t going to make them a profit, most capitalists simply can’t be bothered. If they did, it wouldn’t be capitalism any more.

            Buchheit adds, “The business world has little incentive to safeguard the population against pollution and industrial poisons; or to maintain infrastructure in the inner cities and rural townships; or to make sure everyone has the opportunity for a living-wage job.” Little incentive? Let’s face it, they regard such programs as theft of their hard-earned profits. They go out of their way to ensure that their money is not used for such programs, employing an army of tax avoidance accountants, lobbyists and advertising agencies to ensure that the funds government needs for social services, welfare and disaster relief are not drawn from the corporate sector.

            Heavens, no. Giving lovely corporate profits to poor people would be a dreadful waste! After all, they can’t buy anything – they’re poor remember. Except as cannon fodder they don’t really have a role in the capitalist economy any more. Even the capitalist media is aware of this, as witness this comment in The New York Times: “The free market often does a terrible job of providing basic services to the poor – see, for instance, the lack of grocery stores and banks in many low-income neighbourhoods.”

            In developed capitalist countries, the great majority of the recipients of welfare and other life-sustaining programs are children, the elderly, and the disabled. Children, of course, are essential if labour is to be replenished. But the elderly? The disabled? And suchlike? For capitalism, that’s just money down the drain.

            Which is no doubt why the leading capitalist country, the USA, has such an abysmal record in health care. Hollywood always portrays the US health system, which is run strictly for profit, as the envy of the world, but the reality is very different. As Buchheit notes: “We have a privatised health care system that spends more and performs more poorly than most other developed countries ... Our infant mortality rate is among the highest in the developed world.” He thinks this “disregard for the lives of children reflects a disdain for poor women in America: their children are more likely to die than similarly poor mothers in other countries.” (Now there’s a statistic that’s not bandied around much – certainly not in the capitalist media.)

            Buchheit’s criticisms are not confined to the US health care system. He also lambastes the US education system (already the only place in the world where armed police can be found patrolling school corridors). He points to the USA as the place where you find “profit-seekers promoting forms of school ‘choice’ that eliminate the poorest and neediest students, while draining money from the public system, even as state governments continue to cut school funding.”

            And as everyone knows, homelessness too is rife in “the land of the free”. Those who do have homes are lucky to live in a tiny inner-city apartment. Many Americans have to make do with a “mobile home” in the caravan parks that surround every US town. As Buchheit says, “We have hardly any places in the US where a working class family can afford housing, and yet the federal housing budget is targeted for a cutback.”

            Capitalism is a system of “private enterprise”, that is, it is intended to provide opportunities for private entrepreneurs to make profits. For decades now, US governments have railed against government expenditure on social programs, denigrating it as “big government” which is apparently a Very Bad Thing. In reality, they attack it because government-funded public works compete with private sector public works, where big money can be made.

            The private sector, however, has little interest in providing housing for low income families (i.e. the poor) because, once again, providing housing or any other essential service to poor people is money down the drain. How can you get a profit out of them? They’re poor. Building houses for the rich, that’s where you can make real money!

            In a rational society, the government would fund the construction of public housing because people have a right to housing (shelter), but who thinks the capitalist USA is a rational society?

            Not me, that’s for sure.

 

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