Saturday, March 08, 2008
International Women’s Day, March 8
Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day
Not a single word is mentioned about Madam Labor Secretary Frances Perkins---
Frances Perkins was the first woman ever appointed as a Secretary, and she was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the powerful post of Secretary of Labor. Frances Perkins was a most heroic woman, taking on the entire class of big-business and their advocates, the powerful United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers and the most racist, reactionary forces in this country who branded her a “communist” because of her close association with the leaders of organized labor like the militant rank and file leader and president of the Long shore Union, Harry Bridges; and Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor politicians, Governors Floyd B. Olson and Elmer Benson. When John Bernard, the Communist from the Iron Range was elected to Congress on the Farmer-Labor ticket, Frances Perkins was first in line to embrace and welcome him to Washington.
Most important, Madam Secretary Frances Perkins was the primary author of what we call the “New Deal.”
When the ultra-right lined up to bash Perkins with every smear imaginable, from being Harry Bridges secret lover to promoting interracial sex because she was seen dancing with a black man in the segregated South, to being a “Red” and a Communist--- Perkins never retreated an inch. She answered every racist, reactionary, anti-labor and anti-communist accusation forthrightly and brilliantly. She made it clear she was for full and complete equality when it came to matters of sex and race. To the charge of being a Communist and an advocate of the ideas in the Communist Manifesto because she supported unemployment insurance and old age pensions, Perkins responded, “I am supporting it (the Communist Manifesto) because I would rather see it a reality than on page 30.”
Perkins supported the struggles of the workers in long shore, steel, auto, and mines to organize. She marched on their picket lines and stood up to the company thugs. She supported the “Flint Sit-Down Strike” and the tobacco workers in the South.
Perkins was a victim of J. Edgar Hoover’s dirty witch-hunts… but this didn’t stop Frances Perkins from calling for the release from prison of Communist Party leader Earl Browder, one of the most powerful working class leaders in the United States.
It was women like Frances Perkins and the heroic Elizabeth Gurley Flynn,
IWW organizer and Communist Party leader, whose names have just about been removed and erased from the history books, and those who speak of the role of women in the struggles for labor rights, social and economic justice and for peace, along with full racial and sexual equality shamefully continue to ignore the roles of these two very prominent and very important women during International Women’s Day.
I have, quite literally, received hundreds of communications from all over the United States about International Women’s Day--- a few, a very few mentioned Elizabeth Gurley Flynn;
however, not one single one of these communications so much as mentioned the name of Frances Perkins, the very first Secretary in a Presidential Administration--- the powerful post of Secretary of Labor; arguably, the most important post during the New Deal period. This denial and cover-up of history is shameful, not only because Frances Perkins does not get the recognition she deserves, but, because it allows history to continue to be distorted as to the nature and the role of the historic all-peoples coalition and the united front strategy which developed and won the New Deal reforms.
It is also unfortunate because Madam Secretary Frances Perkins fought to have socialized health care as part of the New Deal. And without understanding how and why this health care was dropped from the New Deal package of reforms it dooms present attempts to bring about real health care reform. That organizations like the Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition and Healthcare Now! would not be raising the role of Frances Perkins and why it is that we did not get socialized health care along with the Wagner Act, Unemployment Insurance and Social Security needs to be thoroughly discussed and analyzed or there will be no advances towards real health care reform… certainly the phony election eve scheme concocted by MN DFL’er Senator John Marty which would place the burden of health care costs fully on the backs of working people with outrageously high premiums is not what Frances Perkins, Floyd Olson, Elmer Benson and John Bernard worked together on to promote as part of the New Deal.
Not a word about casino workers--- Here it is, International Women’s Day, and along with failing to note the role of Frances Perkins--- or even her existence, not one single mention about casino workers employed in the Indian Gaming Industry!
Again, as shameful as omitting Madam Secretary Frances Perkins from International Women’s Day, even more shameful is the fact the unions and liberal and progressive organizations would fail to mention that more than two-million American workers are now employed in the more than four-hundred loud, noisy, smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights under federal or state labor laws under the most Draconian management schemes aimed at keeping workers under the thumbs of these mobster managements, and without any voice at work. Workers employed under these conditions have no voice in their communities, either, because if these employers decide they do not like someone advocating for a minimum wage that is a real, living--- non-poverty--- wage, they are fired. Working people employed under such conditions cannot participate fully in the political life of their communities, states, or the Nation. Workers without any rights in their places of employment have no rights in their communities; this is something so basic to democracy I should not even have to state it, except for the fact that not a single politician in the United States “gets it.” A very sad commentary on the state of democracy, that those who are making the laws of the land do not even have such a basic understanding of such a fundamental concept of democracy--- this is what we get, this kind of callousness towards democracy, when we tolerate and allow the well-heeled to run the government.
The majority of these casino workers are women, mostly women of child-bearing age. Many are women of color including Native American, African-American, Hispanic and Asian. Many of these women are undocumented workers, something that none of the AFL-CIO or Change to Win unions has even brought to light.
The “Compacts” that have created the 400 or so “right-to-work-for-less colonies” in the United States were created by the Democrats. These Democrats now claim the rights of workers to have been “an oversight” in the creation of these “Compacts” which have given life to these 400 “right-to-work-without-union colonies.”
However, these same Democrats don’t overlook these casino managements when it comes election time--- they know right where to go for the big bucks. Every single MN DFL United States Senate candidate has made the trek to see Floyd “Buck” Jourdain. Even the great humanist Jack Nelson-Pallmer joined Al Franken and Mike Ciresi in pandering for campaign funds from “Buck” Jourdain… they know where the big green bucks are kept in the brown paper shopping bags that Abramson left behind.
But, in fact, knowing the dire circumstances they have placed working people in through the creation of these “Compacts,” the Democrats go right on, shamefully, approving these “Compacts” creating casino after casino.
In Michigan, the labor-backed Democratic Governor, Jennifer Granholm who would have preferred to have been a glamorous movie star, but settled for politics, went right ahead and provided her signature of approval to the Gun Lake Casino “Compact,” knowing full well she was depriving some two-thousand workers of their most basic and fundamental human rights… most of these workers would probably rather have a job in the movies, and for sure would be a better Governor.
Yet, Governor Granholm works in a smoke-free office as she sends another two-thousand workers, mostly women of child-bearing age, off to work in another smoke-filled casino.
Here we are, “celebrating” International Women’s Day, and not even one single organization or political party, not one single politician in the entire United States, has the courage to so much as question these “Compacts” created explicitly, and with full knowledge, that the workers employed in these smoke-filled casinos have no rights. In fact, the situation is so shameful that both the American Cancer Society and the Heart and Lung Foundation have ordered their staff to keep a hands-off approach to the casinos operating under the terms of these “Compacts.” In fact, the casino managements are providing funding for the huge bill-boards dotting our high-ways warning us of the dangers of second-hand smoke.
There is something drastically wrong with this picture. If organizations like the Women’s Caucus of the Democratic Party and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom or those organizations and Parties which lay claim to the goals and objectives of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn cannot recognize, admit, and correct this “oversight” there is something drastically wrong.
Here in Minnesota these casino managements are providing the lion’s share of the funding for the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton… the manager of the huge casino/hotel/restaurant/entertainment empire--- Melanie Benjamin--- was the very first to climb aboard Hillary Clinton’s campaign band-wagon… not coincidentally, Frank Fertitta the key player in the Station Casino/resort/entertainment/hotel/theme park empire has given over one-hundred thousand dollars to the Clinton campaign; Michigan’s Governor, the labor-backed governor, entered into the Gun Lake Casino “Compact” knowing that Frank Fertitta, the front man for the Kansas City Mob--- famous for its casino skimming operations, bodies filled with bullet holes in car trunks and buried in the Nevada Desert and responsible for undermining Gary Hart’s Presidential campaign; this is the one and the same Frank Fertitta whose Station Casinos will manage the new Gun Lake Casino--- and, to top it off, the majority of the people of this west Michigan community don’t even want this casino knowing the sleaze and the filth that will come into town with it. And, for good reason… the Station Casinos were just tossed out of Missouri for trying to bribe one of the state’s highest elected public officials… how the Fertitta’s convinced Michigan’s labor-backed governor, Jennifer Granholm to bat her pretty eye-lashes before television cameras as she signed away the rights of two-thousand workers is worthy of investigation.
Abraham Lincoln noted:
“Corporations have been enthroned and corruption in high places will follow...”
I don’t think Abraham Lincoln ever imagined that a labor-backed governor in the State of Michigan where birth was given to his political rise to power based on an anti-slavery, pro-labor agenda would ever be signing away the rights of working people to put them at the mercy of a filthy, rotten sleaze-ball like Frank Fertitta and his Station Casino management team.
Here we are, International Women’s Day and there isn’t an organization or political party that doesn’t have something to say about this important day that is primarily the result of the struggles of working class women for full equality and not one single organization or political party has the moral or political courage to take on an industry which is abusing women workers more than has ever taken place in this country other than slavery.
Not a word from the United Auto Workers union, not a word from the United Steel Workers; ironically, not a word from the Service Employees International Union whose members are fighting for their livelihoods, but find the “casino cops” being recruited to scab on them and the leaders of the SEIU who have refused to take a stand in support of casino workers and in opposition to these “Compacts” come begging to me that they want our help in talking to the “casino cops,” saying, "Maybe in the future we can work together with you on your organizing efforts;" ya, sure, you betcha… just like the United Steel Workers and the UAW who can’t do anything but approve the steel and auto industries’ attacks on the standards of living of the members they are already supposed to be representing; but, they have sat on their hands and watched as jobs are shipped overseas. Now they want to come in and piggy-back on the work of our rank and file organizing efforts and push us out of the picture so they can replace the dues money and the pension funds they allowed the mobsters to squirrel away.
The UAW and the USW have refused to so much as utter a peep of protest against Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signing away the rights of two-thousand casino workers, afraid, as usual, of offending their Democratic Party partners.
Not a word about plant closings--- on this International Women’s Day. The St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant is going down along with two-thousand union jobs. Where will women in the Twin Cities find employment with this kind of pay and benefits… certainly not working in the area’s casinos. Yet, not one of these organizations or political parties which I have received information about International Women’s Day from, including the Party claiming to be the heir to the legacy of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn whose activities figured very prominently here in Minnesota has brought forward a solution to saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant because “they are engaged in campaigning for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton!
Not a word about single-payer universal socialized health care--- not coincidental since these organizations and political parties refuse to acknowledge the important and historic role of Madame Secretary Frances Perkins.
Not a word about the minimum wage--- being a real living wage based upon the calculations of the United States Department of Labor for what a real living--- non-poverty--- annual income is calculated to be. Oh, yes, a few male politicians like Edward Kennedy or James Metzen pull a figure out of a hat without any regard to the fact that the main victims of the minimum wage being a poverty wage are women and their children. Why is it so hard for politicians to establish the minimum wage to be what the United States Department of Labor calculates a real living income to be--- pass legislation to this effect and be done with the issue once and for all. Tie the minimum wage directly to the calculations of the United States Department of Labor then there is no need for state or federal legislators to ever again have to address this issue.
Not a word about ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan--- women and their children suffer the worst consequences of war… Hillary Clinton has the unmitigated gall to say, if elected, she will end the war in Iraq and WIN THE WAR IN AFGAHANISTAN… continued bloodshed, death and destruction. Who will suffer? Women and their children.
Not a word about poverty--- How can poverty be eliminated when employers are allowed to pay workers poverty wages? The present attitude on the part of the vast majority of the leaders of organized labor towards the issue of the minimum wage, and welfare, only assures that millions of Americans will continue living in poverty--- who suffers the most? Women and their children. Tie welfare payments to the same calculations of the United States Department of Labor while fixing the minimum wage problem. If we intend to eliminate poverty, welfare should be based on a real living annual income as calculated by the United States Department of Labor.
Why do we pay the statisticians and researchers of the United States Department of Labor employed at real nice salaries. working in smoke-free offices, to calculate where poverty ends and a real living annual income begins, if we are not going to utilize their calculations? This makes no sense at all to pay anyone big salaries just to write down numbers and statistics in fancy reports if these figures are not going to be used by the government to end poverty.
Not a word about defending our freshwater aquifers, the land our food is grown on, or the air we need to breath--- Hamburgers made from old, sick, diseased, crippled and dying cattle is fed to school children because inspectors with the United States Department of Agriculture don’t get to work on time--- millions of pounds of such hamburger fed to school children, and, if it makes the news at all, it is good for one headline and the issue disappears as if everything is just fine and dandy; parents were not even notified in a timely manner.
The government knowingly allowed this hamburger to be consumed by school children and the general public for at least three weeks without informing the public… but, we all know it was longer because such activity at this slaughter house did not just wait for the hidden cameras to come in… what kind of fools does this totally and completely corrupt government take us all for?
Walleye commercially taken from one of the most mercury and dioxin polluted lakes in Minnesota--- Red Lake--- is allowed be harvested for human consumption without any governmental control or restrictions even though the Minnesota Department of Health and the Department of Natural Resources have put out warnings that such fish should not be eaten by women of child-bearing age or pregnant and nursing mothers… is this walleye being sold labeled as such? No, no one even cares. Who will suffer? Women and their children.
Again, Abraham Lincoln: “Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow.”
But, why would any governmental agency care about mercury and dioxins being in the walleye from Red Lake… the same public officials have granted a Canadian corporation the right to mine peat and drain the mercury contaminated water into already mercury impaired waters, the Black and Tamarac Rivers… the Tamarac going into Red Lake, the Black into Lake of the Woods.
Who suffers the worst consequences of all of this? Women and their children.
Not a word about defending our ecosystems--- The Big Bog is permitted to be mined for peat and United States Steel is allowed to purge its “Clearwater Reservoir” (isn’t this a nice name for a huge body of water more contaminated than the Love Canal ever was?) into the streams, rivers and lakes of Northern Minnesota… who will suffer the most? Women and their children.
Interesting, but I wonder if Elizabeth Gurley Flynn would have remained silent as the communities workers live in whom she helped to organize, would have remained silent as these same workers and their families are poisoned by the same United States Steel that had their hired thugs run her off the Iron Range on more than one occasion?
Not a word about defending democracy--- on International Women’s Day even though it is democracy which enables working people to most effectively fight for their rights and create a new society more in line with what people and our living environment and ecosystems need for survival because we simply cannot survive much longer under capitalism, and we cannot survive without creating some form of a cooperative socialist society where human beings learn to live in harmony with Mother Nature.
If we look at the problem we realize corporations in the drive to obtain maximum corporate profits have no respect for mothers and their children, and even less respect for Mother Nature.
I thought International Women’s Day is a day of struggle. A day to raise the specific issues and problems facing women. A day to discuss what needs to be done to improve the lives of women.
When we improve the lives of women, we improve the lives of the entire human race.
Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps International Women’s Day is only a day to reflect on past struggles in a way those in power do not find offensive. Perhaps International Women’s Day is a day to continue to bury the work of those like Frances Perkins and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.
Perhaps International Women’s Day is a day to showcase the women who have been elected to high office, and those who might be elected, as we don’t mention the hundreds of thousands of women working in smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights because it would be an embarrassment to women like Jennifer Granholm and Hillary Clinton who take the money from the Frank Fertittas of this world for looking the other way?
Really, is this what International Women’s Day has come to in America? A day of celebration that women can serve the corporations as well as men in mistreating women workers?
I can’t help but wonder what Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Frances Perkins might have had to say about the problems of casino workers, or small children being forced to eat this hamburger or mercury contaminated walleye; but, then again, this is probably why there are those who have worked so hard to keep so many of us from learning about these two courageous women who struggled around the same issues and shared similar visions for the kind of country we could have… if we organize, and fight like hell.
Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Cell phone: 651-587-5541
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