Newsletter of the Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio
Volume III, Issue 2, Apr 1998
THE LEFTIE--Newsletter of the Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio // Volume III, Issue 2, April 1998
The Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio (DSCO) are a local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). For more information about DSA contact: www.dsausa.org.
All work and no play? No way! It's time for a party. And what better event to celebrate than May 1, the official labor day of Socialism. So throw down those picks and shovels and come to our May Day Party, Friday, May 1, 8 p.m. at George Boas's house, 824 Kerr St, Columbus (Short North area; turn east at Hammond off High, turn left at Kerr). Potluck. There will be a short presentation about the history and significance of May Day (see article, this issue) and we will also be forming a solidarity committee to support the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC). We featured FLOC in our last issue. They have organized migrant workers in the pickle industry in Ohio and Michigan and are now trying to organize in North Carolina. We will be passing the hat to help them out.
DSCO business committee meeting, Monday, May 4, 7 p.m. at Victorian's Midnight Cafe, Neil and 5th. Next general DSCO meeting is Wednesday, May 13, 7:30 p.m. at Stonewall Union, 1160 N. High St., Columbus (High and 4th)
Earth Day 1998
What is Eco-Socialism?Eco-Socialism brings together ecology and socialism. In the process, eco-socialism triggers exciting debates about the relationship between socialism, anarchism, ecology, feminism, spirituality, anti-racism and environmental justice. The roots of eco-socialism can be traced back at least to the utopian socialism of William Morris (News from Nowhere, 1890) and, more recently, to the Christian socialism of E.F. Schumacher (Small is Beautiful, 1973). Unfortunately, many socialists neglected this tradition in favor of emphasizing industrial production at the expense of the environment. Now, however, a global economic crisis coincides with a global environmental crisis and socialists are emphasizing the connections between environmental devastation and capitalism. The Environmental Justice movement emphasizes how women, people of color, workers, the poor, the Third World and indigenous peoples are often the victims of pollution, toxic waste, workplace accidents, and resource depletion. There are also important questions about the scale and organization of production, the meaning of work and consumption, and the proper relations of humans to nature. There is much to think about on Earth Day 1998.
What has DSCO been doing in 1998 and what are we planning to do in the next few months? At our January meeting we discussed poverty issues with Lisa Hamler-Podolski of the Ohio Food Policy & Poverty Action Center. In February, we met with Bob Fitrakis of The Free Press and Columbus Alive. In March, the organizer for B.R.E.A.D. spoke to us (see article, this issue). This month we discussed school funding and Issue 2 (vote No). For May we have invited speakers from a local union and in June we will hear from an economist on tax abatements in Ohio. We helped organize an International Women's Day event at Capital University (see article, this issue). We will be tabling at Earth Day (April 18) and Anti-Fest (May 16). And then there is Comfest (June 26-28). We need your help. Please call Simone at 267-8517. The purpose of these activities is to relate DSCO and democratic socialism to feminism, ecology, anti-racism and labor. We want to attract new members and help the Youth sections at Capital (Int'l Women's Day) and OSU (Earth Day). This is also the motive for "Movie Night" (see box, this issue). We hope to put together a short "Introduction to Democratic Socialism" program for new and interested members in July. We have also produced a new pamphlet, "An Introduction to DSA," that explains the structure and history of DSA. Meanwhile, we are working on putting together a Living Wage campaign (see article this issue).
May Day for many conjures up images of the Soviet Union and Red Army soldiers parading in Moscow. However, the origin of May Day is the United States labor movement and the struggle for the eight hour day.
The struggle for the eight day work did not come to fruition until the 1930s as part of the New Deal and the Fair Labor Standards Act which codified the eight hour work day. Recent trends in the economy and the increasing prevalence of part-time jobs make understanding the history of May Day important.
The rise of the service economy means many workers now have two low paying, part-time jobs and the average work week has increased to almost 44 hours, the highest since the Depression. We are in danger of losing the eight hour work day at the very same time that other industrialized democracies move towards a 35 hour work week!
As the United States underwent industrialization in the mid-19th Century, twelve and sixteen hours were very common. Businesses required workers to work from sunrise to sunset and the federal government refused to regulate the length of the working day.
This began to change in the 1860s with the struggle for the eight hour day. These early struggles were unsuccessful and in the early 1880s, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada made achieving the eight hour day its national focus. May 1, 1886 was chosen for the day of a national strike that would last until workers won the eight hour work day with no reduction in pay.
"May Day" was chosen because it was celebrated as the beginning of the summer and the most likely day that workers would go on strike, because of lower living costs than in the winter and the beginning of the building season. May 1 was also chosen as the start of national strike action in 1867 in the first round of the struggle for the eight hour work day.
Approximately 300,000 workers went on strike across the country on May 1, 1886. In Chicago, the labor movement was lead by a group of radicals and anarchists. On May 3, two days after the national action began, one death occurred during a riot at the McCormick Harvester plant in Chicago when police tangled with the rioters.
On May 4, workers rallied at Haymarket Square to protest the murder of their fellow worker. At the rally, a bomb was thrown and one police officer was killed. In the shooting that followed, seven more cops died. Although the bomber was never found, the courts sentenced four of the speakers at Haymarket rally to death by hanging. Thus on November 11, 1887, the "Haymarket Martyrs" -- Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolf Fischer, and George Engel -- met their untimely demise. Five others received long jail terms.
The tragedy in Chicago forever changed May Day. On May 1, 1890, subsequent strikes in the United States led some to declare May Day International Workers' Day. May Day thus became a labor holiday -- a worker's holiday. Additionally, the Haymarket tragedy added deep political meaning to an existing pattern of struggle.
Today, May 1st is known as International Workers' Day and commemorates the historic struggle of working people throughout the world. It is recognized in every country except the United States, Canada, and South Africa. In Mexico, May Day is still known as "The Day of the Chicago Martyrs."
It is sad that May Day is neither celebrated nor its history widely taught in the United States. Our tradition of radical activism is long and deep but buried by mainstream culture. Rather than misunderstanding May Day as an event celebrated by "Godless communists," we need to celebrate it as an American Holiday and an American tradition very relevant to our struggle today for better working and living conditions.
Our March general meeting featured speaker John Aeshbury, Director of B.R.E.A.D. (Building Responsibility Equality and Dignity). B.R.E.A.D. is an advocacy coalition of over 30 religious organizations with the goal of improving life for the entire community, especially neglected lower-income groups. Their new campaign centers around a "Fair Share Abatement Plan" which has five main points:
Those wanting to end the embargo against Iraq should attend the rally at the Statehouse May 9, see Calendar.
The Democratic Socialists of America is opposed to the use of military force by the United States to resolve the present impasse over the inspection of Iraqi weapon sites by the United Nations.
Our position is based on three principles.
The real danger from the present military strategy is that it will be totally unsuccessful in securing the stated political objective -- the full inspection of all weapons sites -- and will simply provide justification for those political leaders who are calling for further military action -- including an invasion of Iraq.
The present undemocratic government in Iraq is, to be sure, a regime with a long record of political and social abuses agaist its own citizens, and clear violations of international law. We recognize, of course, that it is only one of several such regimes around the world. What sets the Hussein regime apart is its invasion of Kuwait, and the continuing apprehension on the part of the Clinton Administration that Iraq may, in the future, instigate further military actions that violate the sovereignty of other nations. But, in truth, since the implementation of U.N. resolutions pertaining to Iraq, there have been no such violations. Moreover, there are no indications that any such violations of other nations' sovereignty will take place in the future. We can only note with great chagrin that any unilateral military action by the United States against Iraq would, in the eyes of many people, constitute a violation of Iraq's national sovereignty, and would, in effect, transform an aggressor nation into an aggrieved one. So, the international sympathy for Iraq following this military action may constitute a setback for the cause of democracy and human rights around the world. And, it would again remind many that the U.S. government is often too willing to be the world's unaccountable gendarme.
One of the first organized actions by working women anywhere in the world happened here in the United States. It was the birth of what would later become International Women's Day.
Born at a time of great social turbulence and crisis, IWD inherited a tradition of protest and political activism. In the years before the turn of the 20th century, women in industrially developing countries were entering the work force in great numbers. Their jobs were sex segregated, mainly in textiles, manufacturing and domestic services where conditions were wretched and wages worse than depressed.
Since those early days, International Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in all parts of the world.
DSCO helped celebrate International Women's Day by sponsoring an event at Capital University's Huntington Hall on March 9.
The topic for the evening was Women in Poverty. Lisa Hamler-Podolski of the Ohio Food Policy & Anti-Poverty Action Center Network shared her insight on hunger and how it affects the working poor. Cathy Johnson, Assistant Professor of Nursing at Capital, spoke on health care issues affecting women, especially those women facing Welfare/Medicare reform.
The event was co-sponsored by Capital's National Organization of Women (NOW) Campus Chapter.
Alarm bells went off last winter when food banks and soup kitchens reported a surge in requests for emergency food. The U.S. Conference of Mayors found that 86 percent of American cities reported increased demands for food assistance. What was particularly troubling was that 38 percent of those asking for food work for a living. Even in Columbus, a December 7 Dispatch story found that 18 percent of the people using Franklin County food pantries have jobs. These "working poor" are America's glaring contradiction. The ugly fact (which is dawning on us as we kick people off welfare) is that wages are too low.
At the beginning of this century, the "working poor" was the "working class" and the terms "minimum wage" and "living wage" were interchangeable. Since then these ideas have diverged: the working class thinks of itself as middle class (80% of Americans so consider themselves) and the minimum wage no longer keeps workers out of poverty. We need to bring these ideas back together again.
The connection is the idea of a living wage. If you work for a living, you ought to be able to make a living wage. A living wage is a wage that allows a family to live above the poverty line. The amount varies from state to state or city to city, but generally it means $7.50 to $10 an hour plus health benefits.
Because it is unlikely that federal, state and local governments will raise their minimum wages to these levels, living wage laws usually target companies that receive government contracts, subsidies, tax abatements or loans. In return for public assistance, companies must pay their workers a living wage.
The living wage movement is building across this country. Living wage laws have been passed in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Baltimore, St. Paul, Milwaukee, New Haven, Portland, OR, and Santa Clara County, CA (which includes San Jose). Living wage campaigns are underway in Chicago, Oakland, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Tuscon, Chapel Hill, and Buffalo. Legislation and ballot initiatives have been introduced in California, Oregon, Missouri, Montana, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, Wisconsin, Washington and Texas. A coalition is drafting a ballot initiative for Cleveland. The movement is supported by political activists, unions, religious groups, community organizations like ACORN, women's groups, and anti-poverty organizations.
Why not connect these initiatives to this year's state and national elections? Clinton and the Democrats want to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.15 over the next two years. Last time an increase was proposed, the Republicans panicked and voted for it in order to avoid an election year "wedge" issue. Will they do so this year? Do Mary Boyle, George Voinovich and Ohio's candidates for Congress support an increase?
The Ohio AFL-CIO has endorsed a living wage as part of its 1998 Campaign for Ohio Working Familes. In the legislature, Sen. Bobby Hagan (D-Youngstown) is sponsoring a bill (SB 139) that requires businesses receiving Department of Development money to pay their employees a living wage. Currently there are over 60 Ohio programs aiding businesses. Where do our candidates for governor, lt. governor, secretary of state, etc. stand on living wages? Shouldn't a living wage be an issue in 1998?
In Columbus, progressive organizations are working on a living wage. B.R.E.A.D. (Building Responsibility Equality and Dignity) recently persuaded Franklin County Commissioner Dorothy Teater to endorse a Fair Share Abatement Plan that would require businesses receiving County and City tax abatements to pay wages 125% above the federal poverty rate. So far Mayor Lashutka and the city council have ignored them. But maybe not for long.
The Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio are drafting a position paper in support of living wage. If you would like a copy or more information, contact Jim Wiley at jamwiley@freenet. columbus.oh.us or call 268-7738. DSCO meetings are the second Wednesday of each month at 7:30 p.m., Stonewall Union, 4th and High, Columbus.
(This article also appeared in print in the Spring 1988 issue of The Leftie).
In my ongoing series on recycling: I have learned that no facilities exist in the Columbus area in which vocational rehabilitation workers repair donated furniture, appliances or clothing.
Goodwill, for instance, no longer deals in donated items. Ready-to-sell furniture, appliances, clothing, etc., will be picked up by Lutheran Social Services and Volunteers of America (the latter also providing drop-off sites for such items). The Salvation Army picks up ready-to-sell furniture but not appliances.
Lutheran Social Services, Volunteers of America, and Salvation Army sell these items at their thrift stores. Clothing and household items can also be donated to the American Cancer Society for sale at five locations in Columbus. First Community Church accepts items that are then sold there. The National Kidney Foundation has four thrift shops and has pick-up service available. Birthright sells donated maternity clothing. New Life United Methodist Church sells clothing and household items (which are free to people referred by NMEMP, a shelter social worker, or CMACAO). Habitat for Humanity has a warehouse that sells donated constructions materials (paint, etc.)
Addresses and phone numbers for these organizations are in the White Pages as well as under "Thrift Shops" in the Yellow Pages. You can also call FirstLink information and referral service (221-2255) for addresses, phone numbers and hours of the above organizations.
Activists' Agenda /Calendar of eventsFRIDAY, APRIL 24, 7:30 P.M.
Reel Left Movie Series -- "American Dream," Barbara Koppel's award-winning 1989 film about striking Hormel workers. Northside Library, 1423 N. High St., free. Short documentary & brown bag dinner starts at 6:30 p.m.
TUESDAY, APRIL 28, 7:30 P.M. and TUESDAYS, MAY 5, 12, 19, 7:30 P.M.
FRIDAY, MAY 1, 8:00 P.M.
MONDAY, MAY 4, 7:00 P.M.
SATURDAY, MAY 9, 7:00 P.M.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 7:30 P.M.
THURSDAY, MAY 21, 8:00 P.M.
FRIDAY, MAY 29, 7:30 P.M.
MONDAY, JUNE 1, 7:00 P.M.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10, 7:30 P.M.
FRI-SAT-SUN, JUNE 26-28
SUNDAY, JUNE 28
Reel Left movie series
Surf the RevolutionWEBSITES FOR CYBER-SOCIALISTS AND OTHER PROGRESSIVES
Note: many sites have links to other groups not included in this list
Columbus Free Press
Today DSA continues the struggle for economic justice through campaigns like the Single Payer Health Care movement, immigrant rights organizing, living wage and welfare rights initiatives, and efforts to end corporate "wealthfare." DSA activists work in communities on campaigns for social justice through building coalitions with other organizations, independent organizing, and working on electoral campaigns. At the national level DSA works with progressive organizations from the labor, women's, people of color and other movements and with the Progressive Caucus of the U.S. Congress.
The Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio (DSCO) are a local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). For more information about DSA contact: www.dsausa.org.
For more info call George Boas 297-0710. Next general DSCO meeting is Wednesday, May 13, 1998, 7:30 p.m. at Stonewall Union, 1160 N. High St., Columbus. We will be meeting here every 2nd Wednesday during 1998. All are welcome.
The Leftie is published by the Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio
Editor - Jim Wiley
Layout and Design - Lisa Stephens Lectka
Contributors - George Boas, Simone Morgan, Cheryl Turk Hill
Distribution - Rob Lectka
ALL LABOR DONATED
Send all correspondence to:
P.O. Box 1073
Columbus, OH 43216-1073