Progressive Calendar 06.10.09
From: David Shove (
Date: Tue, 9 Jun 2009 15:14:27 -0700 (PDT)
              P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   06.10.09

1. Hearing/CUAPB     6.10 8:30am
2. Amnesty Intl      6.10 7:30pm

3. Eagan peace vigil 6.11 4:30pm
4. Northtown vigil   6.11 5pm
5. MHP 20 anniv      6.11 5:30pm
6. Rights social     6.11 6pm
7. Pakistan          6.11 6:45pm
8. Single payer/WI   6.11 7pm Hudson WI

9. Free DTV box      6.12 1pm
10. Animal advocacy  6.12-14
11. Urban farming    6.12-14 Milwaukee WI

12. Agence France-Presse - Health insurers investing heavily in tobacco
13. Dan Eggen       - 'Single-Payer' supporters challenge Dems
14. David Macaray   - Does organizaed labor need to get ugly?
15. Marie Trigona   - Worker-run factories in Argentina
16. William Greider - The trouble with Dems/reclaiming the economy

--------1 of 16--------

From: Michelle Gross <mgresist [at]>
Subject: Hearing/CUAPB 6.10 8:30am

Communities United Against Police Brutality
Federal Appeals Court Hearing
False Reporting Lawsuit
Wednesday, June 10, 8:30 a.m.
Federal Court, 316 Robert St, St. Paul

Three years ago, the state legislature passed a terrible law criminalizing
the "false" reporting of police brutality.  So far, it's been used against
people who reported incidents of sexual assault by police, even when there
was biological proof that their complaints were true.  In other words,
this law allows cops - the same ones you're complaining about - to use the
criminal justice system against you if you dare to complain.

The law goes even further: it states that if you "cause to be reported" to
a law enforcement officer, you could be prosecuted.  That means this law
applies to reporters, lawyers and others who tell the stories of others
who have been brutalized.  Clearly this is meant to chill free speech and
criticism of public officials and provides yet another barrier to
meaningful oversight of the cops.

We sued the state of Minnesota over this law. Plaintiffs include this
editor (as someone who reports on police brutality incidents in this
newsletter and is an officer of CUAPB), two journalists who cover the
police brutality beat, a person who was charged under this law after being
sexually assaulted by cops, and a lawyer who litigates police brutality

Despite the fact that a nearly identical law was overturned in California,
a freedom-hating federal judge ruled against us, essentially saying that
if we hadn't been charged yet we can't sue but if we have been charged we
should "seek justice" by fighting against the charges in court.  This is
an outrageous ruling as no one is required to defend against civil rights
violations in criminal court but also because it doesn't address the fact
that the potential for charges has a chilling effect on free speech long
before someone is prosecuted.

This hearing on Wednesday is our federal appeal before a panel of three
judges.  Federal appeals are fairly rare occurrences and should provide
some fascinating court watching.  The hearing is short--we get only 15
minutes of oral argument--so please be on time.

--------2 of 16--------

From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at]>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 6.10 7:30pm

AIUSA Group 640 (Saint Paul) meets Wednesday, June 10th, at 7:30 p.m. Mad
Hatter Teahouse, 943 West 7th Street, Saint Paul.

--------3 of 16--------

From: Greg and Sue Skog <family4peace [at]>
Subject: Eagan peace vigil 6.11 4:30pm

PEACE VIGIL EVERY THURSDAY from 4:30-5:30pm on the Northwest corner of
Pilot Knob Road and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan. We have signs and
candles. Say "NO to war!" The weekly vigil is sponsored by: Friends south
of the river speaking out against war.

--------4 of 16--------

From: EKalamboki [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 6.11 5pm

NORTHTOWN Peace Vigil every Thursday 5-6pm, at the intersection of Co. Hwy
10 and University Ave NE (SE corner across from Denny's), in Blaine.

Communities situated near the Northtown Mall include: Blaine, Mounds View,
New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Spring Lake Park,
Fridley, and Coon Rapids.  We'll have extra signs.

For more information people can contact Evangelos Kalambokidis by phone or
email: (763)574-9615, ekalamboki [at]

--------5 of 16--------

From: Rick Bernardo <supporter [at]>
Subject: MHP 20 anniv 6.11 5:30pm

MHP's 20th Anniversary Gala
HUD's Fred Karnas to speak
June 11, 2009
5:30 in the Evening
Travelers in Downtown St. Paul  -  Jackson Room
385 Washington Street, St. Paul  55102

JOIN US on June 11, 2009 to celebrate and recognize the housing
community's hard-won accomplishments of two decades! The night includes a
reception, dinner - and a fantastic program, including entertainment from
Circus Manduhai( and a special keynote
speaker: Fred Karnas, Senior Advisor to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

Mr. Karnas was one of the earliest appointees of Secretary Donovan and was
charged with helping the Secretary build the leadership team within HUD.
Currently Mr. Karnas is serving as a point person for the Department in
the implementation of the American Recovery Reinvestment Act. His other
major responsibility is to guide HUD's role in addressing poverty and
homelessness. At MHP's event, Mr. Karnas will share his insights regarding
the Department's priorities and major challenges facing HUD under
Secretary Donovan.

Seating is limited and the room is filling up.

We recognize that this celebration occurs amidst a housing and economic
crisis - a crisis that underlines the crucial need for further advancement
in affordable housing.

The 20th Anniversary Gala not only provides an opportunity for MHP and our
partners to celebrate our hard work, but also to build momentum and
inspiration for the work ahead. Please join us at this celebration!

Tickets are $65 per person ($30 is considered a charitable donation).
Tickets can be purchased at:

For more information on becoming an event sponsor, please contact Ellery
July at 651-925-5541 or send email to ejuly [at]

--------6 of 16--------

From: ikhlas247 [at]
Subject: Rights social 6.11 6pm

Civil Rights Community Social
A Discussion on How to Save the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights
Thursday, June 11 - 6:00 PM
Brian Coyle Community Center, 420 15th Avenue S., Minneapolis, 55454

Earlier this year, Mayor Rybak proposed to cut the entire Complaint
Investigation Unit of the City of Minneapolis Civil Rights Department.
This unit investigates and processes complaints of discrimination which
take place in Minneapolis. The Civil Rights Department uses approximately
1% of the entire city budget.

The event will include poetry, ice cream, short speeches, a community
discussion, and an action plan on how to save the department.

Co-Sponsored by:
Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota
Council on Black Minnesotans
Council on American-Islamic Relations - Minnesota
Jewish Community Action
Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission
Minneapolis Urban League
Minnesota-Dakota State Conference of the NAACP
Minnesota League of Human Rights Commissions
NAACP-St. Paul
Sabathani Community Center
United Somali Movement

--------7 of 16--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Pakistan 6.11 6:45pm

"What About Pakistan?" A Talk by William F. Davnie

Thursday, June 11, 6:45 p.m. Parish Community of St. Joseph, 8701 36th
Avenue North, New Hope. William F. Davnie, Foreign Service Officer in the
U.S. Department of State (1981-2007), speaks on Pakistan. Mr. Davnie has
been posted in numerous countries throughout the world and is also a
former teacher (Indonesia) and Presbyterian pastor. He is a frequent
speaker on foreign affairs topics, as well as a writer of opinion pieces.
Free and open to the public. Sponsored by: Northwest Neighbors for Peace.
Endorsed by: WAMM. FFI: Call Eileen, 763-545-2296.

--------8 of 16--------

From: Cindy Jahnke <cmacct04 [at]>
Subject: Single payer/WI 6.11 7pm Hudson WI

The next meeting of the St. Croix County Democratic Party will be held at
the Hudson Community room (above the library) at 911 4th St. on Thursday,
June 11 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.The topic will be Health Care Reform
Proposals in Wisconsin with speaker Andrew Werthmann who was formerly a
community organizer with Wisconsin Citizen Action.

He and other activists took the lead in making comprehensive health care
reform the top issue in the 2006 state elections and helpedpush through
amassive initiation of universal health care referendums across the state
thatgarnered 83% of the vote.For more information, call 715 381-9600 or

--------9 of 16--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: Free DTV box 6.12 1pm

Local organizations and retailers supporting a socially responsible DTV

Goodbye to Analog TV Community Event: Get Your No-Cost Box!
Powderhorn Park (3400 15th Ave S. Minneapolis, MN)
Friday June 12th 2009 (1pm-4pm)

On the day the nation turns off analog TV, the DTV Social Justice
Coalition will be hosting a fun community event at Powderhorn Park to
ensure that everyone is prepared for the DTV transition. Twin Cities
residents will have a chance to apply for coupons, exchange their
government coupons for a converter box, see live demonstrations on how to
hook it up, and enjoy some food. Help will be provided in multiple

The DTV Transition has been a stumbling block for many communities and it
has threatened to decrease access to television. The current costs
associated with a DTV transition, including the purchase of a converter
box could leave millions of viewers in the dark. "Many of the folks that
have been on the outside looking in around DTV have been communities of
color and low income communities," said Steven Renderos, Project
Coordinator for the MN Media Empowerment Project. "Even now there are
families that can't afford the switch and that's why having the No-Cost
Box is so important."

The DTV Coalition - members of the Media Action Grassroots Network teamed
up with Mosquito Productions, a local electronics retailer, to provide a
No-Cost Box, which helps low-income families afford the cost of purchasing
the converter box. This DTV Day of Action is a nationally coordinated
effort by the Media Action Grassroots Network highlighting the importance
of a socially responsible DTV transition.

Local sponsors supporting a socially responsible DTV transition campaign:
Lao Assistance Center, Main Street Project, Minnesota Center for
Neighborhood Organizing, MN Media Empowerment Project, Minneapolis Urban
League, Somali Action Alliance National sponsors supporting a socially
responsible DTV transition: Media Action Grassroots Net work and the
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

--------10 of 16--------

From: Susan Crane <susan.crane [at]>
Subject: Animal advocacy 6.12-14

Join activists from all around the country this summer at the second
annual Midwestern animal advocacy conference, "Their Lives, Our
Voices", June 12-14, 2009 ( Hosted by
Compassionate Action for Animals, this conference will take place in
Minneapolis at the beautiful Hubert Humphrey Conference Center,
located in a charming, veg-friendly, walking neighborhood.

Their Lives, Our Voices is an inclusive, high-quality, affordable, and
hands-on conference focused on empowering advocates in their efforts
to help farmed animals. This event is accessible to all animal
advocates, showcasing diverse topics and perspectives within our
movement. Networking and attendee participation are vital to TLOV's
success, so please come and help make this an exceptional event.

Our all-star line-up of featured speakers includes Tom Regan (The Case
for Animal Rights), Lorri Bauston (founder of Animal Acres), pattrice
jones (Aftershock), Kenneth Williams (vegan bodybuilder and host of
Undercover TV), Victoria Moran (Love-Powered Diet), Hillary Rettig
(The Lifelong Activist), Norm Phelps (The Longest Struggle), Mark
Hawthorne (Striking at the Roots), Erin E. Williams (Why Animals
Matter), Steven Kaufman (Christian Vegetarian Association), Erica
Meier (Compassion Over Killing), Jack Norris (Vegan Outreach), Jack
Norris (Vegan Outreach), Nathan Runkle (Mercy for Animals), Rae Sikora
(Plant Peace Daily), and Freeman Wicklund (Mercy for Animals) and many

The early-bird price is $15 for students and low-income individuals,
$30 for everyone else. Both rates will increase by $15 on Friday, May
22.  This includes four full vegan meals plus snacks! We also have
low-cost housing options. No one will be turned away due to lack of
funds. Please visit our website for information on travel scholarships
and discounts for volunteering.

Visit our website at to learn more about the
event and to register at this special price!

Susan Crane Promotions Director Compassionate Action for Animals 300
Washington Ave SE, Rm. 126 Minneapolis, MN 55455
Office: 612-626-5785 Cell: 612-499-0373 susan.crane [at]

--------11 of 16--------

From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
Subject: Urban farming 6.12-14 Milwaukee WI

June 12 - 14: Women's Environmental Institute Growing Power Urban Farming
Training Weekend in Milwaukee, WI.  WEI will take a crew of 40 people to
participate in Will Allen's "Growing Power" training.

This is a fantastic community-building opportunity for those interested
and committed to developing community-based urban gardening and
agricultural justice projects.

$350 price for entire weekend but must donate 16 hours to WEI's urban
farming projects upon return. Price includes travel, lodging, and 2 days
of workshops (including meals). You could also sponsor community members
through donating $350 per individual. For more information call Blake at
651-209-3934 x 1.

--------12 of 16--------

Canadian, US, UK Life, Health Insurers Investing Heavily in Tobacco

Friday 05 June 2009
by: Agence France-Presse  |  Visit article original @ Agence France-Presse

Life and health insurance companies retain major investments in the
tobacco industry.

Canadian firm Sun Life has $1 billion in two companies.

Major U.S., Canadian and British life and health insurance companies have
billions of dollars invested in tobacco companies, says a study published
in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Wesley Boyd, the study's lead author, found that at least $4.4 billion US
in insurance company funds are invested in companies whose affiliates
produce cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco.

"Despite calls upon the insurance industry to get out of the tobacco
business by physicians and others, insurers continue to put their profits
above people's health," said Boyd, a faculty member of Harvard Medical

"It's clear their top priority is making money, not safeguarding people's
well-being," he wrote.

Tobacco is considered the leading cause of lung cancer and a major risk
factor for heart attack, stroke, pulmonary disease and cancer.

According to the World Health Organization, it is a contributing factor in
5.4 million deaths a year.

Researchers first revealed that health and life insurance companies had
major investments in tobacco companies in 1995 in an article in the
British medical journal Lancet.

"Although investing in tobacco while selling life or health insurance may
seem self-defeating, insurance firms have figured out ways to profit from
both," Boyd wrote.

"Insurers exclude smokers from coverage or, more commonly, charge them
higher premiums. Insurers profit - and smokers lose - twice over."

According to the study, U.S. insurer Prudential Financial Inc. has $264.3
million invested among three U.S. tobacco companies, including Reynolds
America and Philip Morris.

Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial Inc., which sells life, disability and
health insurance, has a stock portfolio with more than $1 billion in two
tobacco companies, including $890 million in Philip Morris.

Prudential Plc, which sells health and disability insurance, has $1.38
billion in two tobacco companies, including British American Tobacco.

The study also details the substantial tobacco investments of the U.S.
firms Northwestern Mutual and Massachusetts Mutual Life, and the Scottish
firm Standard Life Plc.

--------13 of 16--------

'Single-Payer' Supporters Challenge Democrats
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post
June 6, 2009

When President Obama convened a town-hall meeting in Rio Rancho, N.M.,
last month, he wanted to talk about credit card reform. But many in the
crowd had a different agenda.

"So many people go bankrupt using their credit cards to pay for health
care," the first questioner said to applause. "Why have they taken
single-payer off the plate?"

The "single-payer" activists had struck again. As Obama and congressional
Democrats work to hammer out landmark health-care legislation, they face
increasingly noisy protests from those on the left who complain that a
national program like those in Europe has been excluded from the debate.

The White House and Democratic leaders have made clear there is no chance
that Congress will adopt a single- payer approach -- named for the idea
that a single government-backed insurance plan would pay for all
Americans' medical costs -- because it is too radical a change.

That has not dissuaded single-payer activists, who have spent months
hounding Democratic lawmakers and organizing demonstrations, including one
that resulted in 13 arrests at a Senate hearing last month. The offensive
continues this weekend with plans to swamp a series of "house parties" on
health care hosted by Organizing for America, an Obama-backed project at
the Democratic National Committee.

Opportunity and Challenge

The movement poses both an opportunity and a challenge for Obama, who is
able to position himself as a centrist by opposing a single-payer plan but
who risks angering a vocal part of the Democratic base.

"Obama is really the one who is puzzling to us," said Rose Ann DeMoro,
executive director of the California Nurses Association, a union that has
been leading many of the single-payer protests. "We were all supporters of
him. . . . It's hard to understand how he can expect to rally support
around a plan that will leave the big insurance companies in charge and
keep hurting patients."

Many Republicans see the movement as evidence that Democrats are setting
the country on the path to "government-run health care," as they describe
it. Conservatives for Patients' Rights, an advocacy group bankrolled by
ousted Columbia/HCA chief Rick Scott, unveiled a $1.2 million ad campaign
Thursday that portrays Democratic plans as a "bulldozer" aimed at
eliminating private insurance companies.

"It's just one step removed from a single-payer system," Scott said in an
interview, referring to current Democratic proposals. "The goal is to get
rid of the insurance companies, and then the government makes all the

Obama and other Democrats dispute such characterizations, saying they
favor a plan that would marry private and public resources to control
costs and expand coverage for 46 million uninsured Americans. Obama wrote
in a letter to Democrats this week that he "strongly" backs creating a
public insurance option to compete with private carriers, and also
signaled that he is open to the idea of requiring coverage for all

Obama has rejected the idea of establishing a single government insurance
program, however, saying the U.S. tradition of providing health care
through employers would make such a shift politically and practically

"If I were starting a system from scratch, then I think that the idea of
moving towards a single-payer system could very well make sense," Obama
said in response to the questioner in New Mexico, echoing comments he made
during his presidential campaign. "The only problem is that we're not
starting from scratch. . . . We don't want a huge disruption as we go into
health-care reform where suddenly we're trying to completely reinvent one-
sixth of the economy."

Advocates of a single national program argue that its benefits would far
outweigh the drawbacks, noting that most other industrialized nations
guarantee coverage for all at far lower costs with generally better health
outcomes. They also dispute allegations by Scott and other conservatives
that such a system would lead to rationing and waiting lists, saying that
Americans face the same problems and worse now.

"Single-payer on its merits can win," said Tim Carpenter, national
director of Progressive Democrats of America. "But we've been cut out by
the doctors, the insurance companies and other special interests."

A Small Victory

The single-payer activists won a small victory this week when Sen. Max
Baucus (D-Mont.), who is leading health-care negotiations as chairman of
the Senate Finance Committee, agreed to meet with them after months of
tension. Those in attendance said Baucus apologized for not including
single-payer advocates more prominently in earlier hearings, but he also
said it is too late to change direction.

Polling on single-payer insurance varies widely, based largely on how the
issue is framed. In an April Kaiser Family Foundation poll about ways to
increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance, the option
finished last on an eight-item list, with 49 percent in favor and 47
percent opposed. Moreover, about a third of those who support a public
insurance option would turn against the idea if it were an initial step
toward single-payer care, the poll found.

Most mainstream progressive groups, including some that have previously
advocated a single-payer approach, think Obama's strategy has the best
hope for success. Many groups draw lessons from the Clinton
administration, which buckled under attacks from Republicans and the
medical lobby when it proposed a more centralized approach.

This time around, unions and groups such as Health Care for America Now
plan to spend more than $80 million on ad buys, outreach and other efforts
to support Obama and the Democrats. The DNC, using Obama's campaign e-
mail list of 13 million names, kicks off its effort today with thousands
of "house parties" focused on "the urgency of passing health care reform
this year," according to a news release.

In an e-mail this week, Progressive Democrats of America urged its
supporters to "take the single-payer message" to the meetings.

DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse said the gatherings are open to all. "Their
voices, energy and passion are welcome, and no one is looking at them as
the enemy," he said. "It's just that with the system we have, single-payer
is not something that's likely to happen."

Polling director Jon Cohen contributed to this report.

--------14 of 16--------

Does Organizaed Labor Need to Get Ugly?
A Bad Time for Unions
June 9, 2009

It's a bad time for unions.  Not just for the most visible ones - like the
UAW, which has been ravaged by the collapse of the domestic auto industry,
or SAG, whose 120,000 members are being whip-sawed into signing an
inferior contract by Hollywood's producers (AMPTP) - but for unions
everywhere: the miners, steelworkers, UBC, IAM, ILWU.  They're all being

There's also been some unfortunate internecine action.  The big, bad SEIU
is fighting a series of highly publicized jurisdictional battles with
nursing groups all over the country.  Its president, Ivy-educated Andy
Stern, is being characterized, contradictorily, as both a swaggering
"union goon" and an obsequious "corporate lackey".  Pick your poison.

And then there's UNITE HERE - two independent unions that came together
just a few years ago in what was believed to be a marriage made in Heaven
- breaking apart rancorously, Hatfield-McCoy style, before our eyes.

But America's workers haven't given up.  Strikes are still occasionally
called, and toxic contracts are still voted down.  The problem doesn't lie
with the workers; it lies with the national leadership.  Sadly, these
nouveau riche union jackasses are behaving like businessmen instead of
working people.

Those big salaries and that hobnobbing with corporate executives have
caused them not only to forget what their mission was, but to lose sight
of what was attainable.  Yes, things are bad.  Yes, membership rolls are
down, and there's a recession.  But when have things ever been "good" for
labor?  When have unions ever not had to fight and scrape for every dime?

The following is a true story.  It's an account of an employee ("Derek")
of a Fortune 100 company, who came out of nowhere to become president of a
750-member AWPPW local union, and take the membership on a spectacular
two-year ride.

What Derek did, in a word, was reinvent union radicalism.  Although there
was already a union in place, it had become complacent and predictable;
management had figured out ways to pacify and circumvent it.  So how did
young Derek reinvent the union?  He transformed a Model-T into a Trans-Am.

For one thing, he generated an inordinate number of grievances.  In one
year alone the local filed a staggering 270 grievances, more than triple
the usual number.  For another, he went outside the facility; he filed
lawsuits and ULPs (Unfair Labor Practice charges); he took more cases to
arbitration in one year than in the previous decade combined; he visited
OSHA regularly, he made so many phone calls to the NLRB, he practically
had an open line.

If there was ever a top-down arrangement that worked, this was it.
Because Derek was this gushing fountain of ideas and tactics, the
Executive Board deferred to him, allowing him to morph from president to
King.  Single-handedly, he re-energized the shop steward corps, aroused
the membership, and "radicalized" what had been an apathetic, if not
inert, Center.

As a consequence, he placed the company in the heretofore unheard of
position of having to play defense.  No one - union or management - had
ever seen anything like it.

I knew Derek.  I was there when he first streaked across the sky, and I
was there when he burned out, which is to say I witnessed his breakdown.
While Derek's legacy is a mixed bag, there's no denying he temporarily
reversed the roles, taking the whip out of management's hand and placing
it in the union's.  Yes!

Predictably, management gave him no credit.  Despite having to hunker down
under his merciless assault, management insisted that Derek's audacious,
wild-assed stunts had no effect.  That was their orthodox, buttoned-down
response, and they were sticking to it.

Only one manager ("Clayton") had the courage to admit he'd been "afraid"
of Derek.  "He could come into my office and pretty much ruin my day,"
Clayton confessed.  Because he knew the trouble Derek could stir up when
he was on the warpath, Clayton, like every other manager, did what he
could to accommodate him.

And that, in a nutshell, was Derek's modus operandithreaten - to create
such a mess, management didn't dare ignore you.  The tactic's simplicity
was elegant.  The only difference between Clayton's appraisal of Derek's
effectiveness and the other managers' appraisal of it, was that Clayton
was being honest.

When management tells you that radicalism doesn't work - that calm,
eminently rational discourse is what carries the day - they're either
lying or deluding themselves.  Indeed, the potency of a threat is
inversely proportional to the intensity of the denial by those claiming it
doesn't work.

The lesson here is that unions should stop being so reasonable.  Union
officials should start embarrassing themselves.  Maybe, instead of
worrying about being "respected" by their corporate buddies, they should
consider giving the ruling class a dose of what it means to go ape-shit.

After all, could getting down in the dirt be any less effective than
what's being done now?  What has organized labor gained by behaving like
good little boys and girls?  It certainly hasn't stopped workers from
making concessions.  If labor can't prevent further damage, the least it
can do is make management uncomfortable.

Regrettably, Derek was unable to hang on.  Anyone who really knew
him - anyone who saw how undisciplined and insecure he was - could have
predicted the ending.  After running at full speed for almost two years,
Derek more or less burst into flame.

--------15 of 16--------

Charley abandoned his chocolate factory
Sweet tale of a crisis, Arrufat Chocolate without a boss
By Marie Trigona
Jun 05, 2009

We all know the childhood tale of Charley and the Chocolate Factory best
emulated in the psychedelic inspired 1971 film. Charley a poor, well
intentioned boy wins the Willy Wonka chocolate factory in a stroke of good
fortune - every child's fantasy and utopia. But would what happen if
Charley grew older and greedy against the advice of Willy Wonka? If he ran
the chocolate factory into ruins, throwing out the workers and closing up
shop? And what if the oompa loompas would take over the plant to demand
their unpaid salaries and severance pay? What if they would decide to
start up production without Charley, collectively running the plant and
relating to other worker occupied factories? Well, this alternate version
of the childhood story is becoming a reality for workers in Argentina.

In Argentina, Charley did abandon his factory. But in this case, Charley
is Diana Arrufat, heiress to the Arrufat chocolate factory in Buenos
Aires. She closed the factory's doors on January 5, 2009. The workers, who
are not the imagined oompa loompa refugees in the film, but real workers
decided to occupy the plant. And now the workers are producing deliciously
sweet delicacies without the supervision and exploitive practices of

                         Factory closure

On January 5, the workers got the news that they were fired. Diana Arrufat
left a poster on the gate of the factory to inform the workers they no
longer had jobs. The 50 workers still employed hadn't been paid their
salaries for much of 2008. "They fired us without having to look at our
faces. They abandoned us," says Alberto Cavrico a worker who has worked at
the plant for more than 20 years. That they same day they to open the
factory gate and remain inside the factory.

Within hours owner went to the police accusing the workers for
"usurpation" and trespassing of the plant. Meanwhile, she has been
unwilling to meet with the workers and labor ministry to discuss how to
normalize the situation.

Arrufat, founded in 1931 had been a national leader in chocolate. The
family run business was finally inherited by the original owner's
granddaughter, Diana Arrufat in the late 90's. Since she took over the
company, the factory took a turn for the worse. Workers describe how the
owner would cut corners sacrificing product quality - using hydrogenated
oil instead of cocoa butter and imitation cocoa instead of the real beans
imported from Ecuador or Brazil. In its heyday, when the company produced
high quality chocolate, it employed more than 300 workers. By 2008, the
chocolate manufacturer only had 66 employees.

Throughout 2008, the owner was not paying workers their full salary, with
the promise that they would be paid at a later date. The workers sent a
report to the labor ministry in May 2008 that the owner owed them nearly 6
months in back salaries, was emptying out the plant and hadn't paid the
workers' retirement funds for 10 years. By the end of 2008, on Christmas
Day the owners gave the workers 50 pesos (less than 20 dollars) and then
five days before firing them paid them 50 pesos again on New Year's.

Many of the workers had heard about factory occupations but never thought
that they would face a factory closure. "I never thought that I'd have to
sleep inside the factory on top of a machine to defend my job post," says
Marta Laurino, a stead fast woman with over 30 years working at the plant.
Concluding that the owners weren't coming back, at least to open up shop
again - the workers decided in an assembly to continue to occupy the plant
and form a cooperative.

                  Chocolate without a boss

Just 30 days after occupying the plant, the workers of Arrufat had already
formed a cooperative and sought out the advice from other occupied
factories operating since the 2001 financial crisis. They have
successfully begun producing, although sporadically because the
electricity in the plant has been turned off since Diana Arrufat ran up a
$15,000 dollar debt with the privatized electric company Edesur. And the
electric company won't turn the lights back on until the debt is paid.

Meanwhile, the workers have invented alternatives in order to produce. For
Easter, the cooperative produced more than 10,000 chocolate Easter eggs.
They got a loan of $5,000 dollars from the NGO La Base that provides low
interest loans to occupied factories and worker cooperatives. They used
this money to rent an industrial generator and buy raw materials - cocoa
beans, cocoa butter, liquor and sugar needed to make high-quality
chocolate. They decided to re-open the store front on the side of the
factory. The day that they started producing the government health
inspector came to the plant, the same inspector's office which hadn't
visited the factory in probably 20 years according to the workers. The
police also came because the workers opened the store front.

All of the eggs were sold out of the factory's store front before the end
of the Easter season. The workers were able to pay back the loan within a
week, sell the entire stock of Easter eggs and each take home around
$1,000, no small feat after not getting a full salary for more than a
year. With the remaining capital, rented a generator and bought more raw

During much of the occupation before getting the loan and afterward, the
workers were producing small quantities of chocolate by hand, unable to
use the machinery because the electricity was shut off. A neighbor, a
niece of Diana Arrufat, let the workers connect an electric line that way
they would at least have lights and a refrigerator in the factory. And in
a small space, with a domestic freezer, the workers began producing small
batches of bonbons, chocolate bars and chocolate covered delicacies.

Production has helped the workers transform their subjectivity, seeing
that they have more power to fight against the owner, judges, private
companies and police constantly throwing monkey wrenches at their dreams.
"The worker occupied factories insisted that we get back to work giving us
the advice that we won't gain anything by sitting around. They're right
producing without a boss does change your outlook and ability to believe
in yourself," said Marta Laurino

Now the cooperative hopes that they can gain enough momentum in the market
to continue production with regularity. But they are fighting an eviction
notice, criminal charges and bureaucratic offices preventing them from
accessing a tax number for their cooperative, which they consequentially
need to get an account with the electric company. Looking at the business
model other worker recuperated enterprises have established, the workers
at Arrufat make all their decisions collectively in a weekly assembly. All
workers are paid the same wage. And they want to continue to reinvent
social relations inside the plant.

                    New wave of occupations

Arrufat isn't the only factory that has been occupied since the global
recession crept up. Since late 2008 there have been several new factory
takeovers in Argentina. For example, the owners of Indugraf printing press
shut down operations in a similar manner to Arrufat in November 2008. The
printing house workers in Buenos Aires occupied their plant on December 5,
the same week that workers in Chicago decided to occupy the Republic and
Windows Doors Plant - to demand severance pay and benefits after being
abruptly fired. Currently, they are fighting to form a cooperative and
start up production without a boss. Other occupations include Disco de
Oro, a plant producing the pastry dough to make empanadas, a meat filled
pastry common in Argentina. Febatex, a textile plant producing thread and
Lidercar, a meat packing plant are two more examples of recent worker
occupations. These workers have had to collectively fight violent eviction
threats and are still struggling to start up production as worker

Many workers from the newly occupied factories say that their bosses saw
the crisis as the perfect opportunity to clear their debts by closing up
shop, fraudulently liquidate assets, fire workers and later re-start
production under a new firm. This was the case in Arrufat, and seems to be
a global trend with many companies hoping for a bailout plan to re-open

All of these newly formed cooperatives have said that they were influenced
and inspired by the previous experiences of worker self-management in the
nation. "The other worker occupied factories bring us hope that we can win
this fight," says Mirta Solis, a long time chocolatier. Essentially, the
worker run BAUEN Hotel in downtown Buenos Aires, has become the landing
place or you could say launch pad for many of these factory takeovers.
Workers, who decided to take over their plant, come to the BAUEN Hotel
occupied since 2003 to get legal advice and political support.

FACTA or the Federation of Worker Self-managed Cooperatives has played an
important role in supporting the cooperatives. FACTA, founded in 2007, is
made up of more than 70 worker self-managed coops, many worker occupied
others worker owned inspired by the recuperated enterprise phenomenon.
FACTA's objective is to group cooperatives together so they can
collectively negotiate institutional, political, legal and market
challenges together; the idea being that 70 cooperative united can better
negotiate with state representatives, institutional offices and other
businesses. FACTA also brings identity. For Adrian Cerrano, from Arrufat
FACTA's work has helped the new occupied factories to organize legally and
as cooperatives. "We were occupying not knowing what to do and workers
from the BAUEN, which forms part of FACTA and provided a lot of support.
We decided to ask FACTA's lawyer to represent us legally."

                         Utopia tale

Arrufat is not yet a utopia, but at least workers are fulfilling the dream
of fighting for their rights. "I worked at this factory for 25 years. I
lost part of my body inside this factory because I lost my hand while
working in this plant. This is what makes me make the sacrifices and work
towards forming the cooperative and produce." They are setting an example
for workers all around the world that through direct action and
occupations they can prevent companies from using the crisis as an excuse
to further exploit workers and make unnecessary cut-backs in hopes of
getting a bailout plan. The government should support these experiences of
worker-self-management, provide them with the same benefits and subsidies
that capitalist business receive.

And if Charley, or any other boss, wants to leave his or her factory, let
them! But the workers have the right to continue their work with dignity.
"Maybe one day our story will be included in a chapter on the working
class history that a group of workers occupy a plant and begin producing,"
said Adrian after lamenting the loss of his hand in the factory under
capitalist supervision. And the occupied factories in Argentina are doing
just that; writing a new chapter in working class history sending the
message that workers can do what capitalists aren't interested in doing:
creating jobs and dignity for workers.

Marie Trigona is a writer, radio producer and filmmaker based in
Argentina. She is currently writing a book on Worker Self-Management in
Latin America forthcoming by AK Press. She can be reached at
mtrigona [at]

--------16 of 16--------

The Trouble with Democrats
Reclaiming the Economy for the People
by William Greider
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The Nation

The governing party faced an awkward dilemma. People were hurting and
furious at the government's generous bailouts for banks. But how could the
Democrats do something for the folks without upsetting their friends and
patrons in the banking industry? Democrats think they found a way. They
are enacting a series of measures described as "breakthrough" reform and
"unprecedented" defeat for the bankers. Only these achievements are more
accurately understood as "reform lite."  The house is on fire and
Democrats brought a garden hose.

The Democratic Party is changing in some promising ways, but what's
impressive is how much it has not changed. Does that sound harsh? I am
relying on private judgments from Washington players regarded as the
"white hats" on this subject - consumer lobbyists and other public-
interest reformers, who for years have labored in frustration to enact
laws that would restore equity and honest relationships to the out-of-
control financial system. These organizations mostly endorse the
Democrats' efforts and celebrate their "victories." But a few minutes of
private conversation reveals their doubt and disappointment. "It's a good
bill," they will say, then after enumerating the shortcomings add, "It's
better than nothing." "This has to be on background, OK?" one of the
reformers said. "This crisis brought down the world economy and yet
Congress still hasn't passed a bill making sure it doesn't happen again."

Julia Gordon, a lawyer with the Center for Responsible Lending, did not
seek anonymity. "We have reached the moment to ask ourselves Rabbi
Hillel's question: if not now, when?" Gordon said. "I fear we are letting
this crucial moment pass without putting forward-looking rules in place to
fundamentally change how mortgages are made and prevent predatory lending.
Plus, when we look back at the foreclosure tsunami that devastated so many
families, we're going to be ashamed that we did not fix the bankruptcy
code to permit mortgage modification. That move alone could have prevented
more than a million foreclosures, and while I predict we will revisit the
issue in the future, it will be like closing the barn door after the horse
has died."

If not now, when? That question ought to haunt the Democratic Party and
President Obama, who has been missing in action himself on key issues.
Congressional Democrats are responding to this epic conflagration with the
same risk-avoidance tactics they learned during many years in minority
status. In those days, they could always blame right-wing Republicans for
blocking their good intentions. But whom do the Dems blame now that they
have the White House and fifty-nine votes in the Senate and a
seventy-eight-seat majority in the House? Their standard explanation for
not doing more is, "We didn't have the votes." So when might we expect
Democrats to achieve more? When they have eighty votes in the Senate?

The party's ideological intentions are being defined with greater clarity
in these new circumstances, and so are the President's. It's still early,
but the implications are ominous for other issues. If Democrats are
reluctant to disturb the power of other major interests, it seems
improbable that fundamental change will occur on healthcare, energy
conversion or the restoration of work and wages. The problem now is the
Democrats, not the Republicans. The party aids and protects its
free-roaming entrepreneurial politicians and does not punish those who
undermine the party's larger promises. When Republicans were in charge,
they enforced party loyalty with Stalinist discipline.  Democrats are the
party of safe incumbents, weak convictions.

The much-celebrated "Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights" is a fresh
example of how the Democratic Party tries to have it both ways - avoiding
the tough votes while mollifying the folks. The credit card reform measure
imposes new rules on the industry and does away with many of the most
outrageous gimmicks bankers use to extract more money from debtors. Banks
cannot raise interest rates retroactively on old credit card balances or
pile on hidden fees or fail to give advance notice for rate increases.
These and other changes are worthy.

The achievement seems less courageous if you know that Congress was
largely ratifying the regulatory rules already adopted by the Federal
Reserve last year. Or that the legislation gives the industry another nine
months to gouge their customers before the new rules go into effect. Or
that Visa and MasterCard, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase are free to raise
future interest rates to the sky - without limit. That is the industry's
intention, as bank lobbyists reported after the bill was passed.

                        American Usury

One of the fundamental issues that party managers wished to avoid was the
scandal of American usury. Usury is the ancient sin of charging inflated
interest rates sure to ruin the borrowers. It is considered immoral by
Judaism, Christianity and Islam because usury involves the powerful using
their wealth to ensnare weak and defenseless borrowers.  The classic
usurer offers an impossible choice that debtors cannot easily refuse. If
they reject the terms of the loan, they will not be able to pay the rent
or buy necessities. If they accept the usurious interest rates, their
debts will accumulate until they are bankrupted (at which point the
creditors claim their property). No civilized society can endure in such

Usury used to be illegal in the United States but it was "decriminalized"
in 1980 - the dawn of financial deregulation. A Democratic president and
Congress repealed all interest-rate controls and the federal law
prohibiting usury. Thirty years later, American society is permeated with
usurious practices - credit cards charging 30 percent and higher, subprime
mortgages and other forms of predatory lending, the notorious "payday"
loans that charge desperate working people an effective interest rate of
500 percent or more. Businesses, especially smaller firms, are also prey
to usury in less direct ways.

Needing credit to survive, they submit to the creditor's demands and are
often weakened as a result, shedding workers and services that shrink
customers and income.

The straightforward way to stop usury is to enact a hard legal limit on
the interest rates creditors can charge borrowers. In the House, several
legislators introduced interest-rate caps, but party leaders would not let
the issue get a roll call vote. Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York and
co-sponsors proposed an interest-rate cap of 18 percent, the same ceiling
enacted years ago for credit unions. "Offering the amendment raised a lot
of anxiety on the part of a lot of people,"  Hinchey said.

"It was withdrawn because it had no possibility of success and it would
have put a number of people in a tough situation. We had to back off."

A roll call on usury would have compelled legislators to choose between
their constituents and their bankers. Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland
proposed a tougher ceiling on interest rates, but the House rules
committee rejected her amendment. "Our constituents are so angry with the
banks," she observed, "siding with credit-card companies would not be
helpful to me, and I expect that's true in other districts." Bankers are
contributors, so this is what members call "a money vote." A consumer
lobbyist explained. "Let's face it," he said.  "The main reason lots of
members get on the House Financial Services Committee is because they want
to raise money from the financial industry."

In the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois, the majority whip who rounds up
votes for the party, introduced his own usury bill - a cap of 36 percent
including the non-interest fees and charges. Durbin's bill also empowered
state governments to set lower limits. The Consumer Federation of America
endorsed it, but the consumer lobbyists asked Durbin not to have a roll
call on his measure because it might reveal their weakness.

Nevertheless, the redoubtable Bernie Sanders of Vermont demanded a vote on
his bill - an interest-rate cap of 15 percent.

"When banks are charging 30 percent interest rates, they are not making
credit available," Sanders said. "They are engaged in loan sharking."
Sanders lost, 33 to 60. Twenty-one Democrats voted with the sharks.
Senators Carper, Cantwell, Byrd, Bingaman, Bayh, Baucus, Akaka, Warner,
Tester, Stabenow, Specter, Shaheen, Pryor, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson,
Murray, Lincoln, Landrieu, Kaufman, Johnson, Hagan.

The scandal of "payday" lending is being confronted by numerous state
legislatures, but the issue stalled out in Congress. The industry pursued
a race-based lobbying strategy that targeted black and Hispanic
representatives with this pitch - poor people need these loans; don't mess
with them. Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois proposed a bill that usurers
found acceptable - an interest rate cap of 390 percent.

                    Standing With the Sharks

Perhaps the most revealing moment for Democratic timidity was the Senate
roll call to authorize bankruptcy judges to intervene on home foreclosures
and reduce the burden for failing homeowners. If the bankers refused to
make a deal, the debtors could take them into bankruptcy court and hope
for better terms. This single reform would shift the balance of power
modestly from creditors to debtors and save at least 1.5 million families
from foreclosure, reformers estimated.  The measure passed easily in the
House, but was defeated by the Senate.

Bankruptcy reform lost because twelve Democrats joined the Republicans to
vote for bankers and against embattled families. Senators Baucus, Bennet,
Byrd, Carper, Dorgan, Johnson, Landrieu, Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Pryor,
Specter, Tester.

Dick Durbin could not conceal the bitter aftertaste. He told a hometown
radio interviewer: "Hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking
crisis that many of the banks created - they are still the most powerful
lobby on Capitol Hill. And frankly, they own the place."

Durbin's disappointment may have included the former Illinois senator whom
he had championed for president. Barack Obama took a walk on reform. Last
year as a candidate, Obama declined to support the bankruptcy provision
for the financial-bailout legislation, but he promised reform groups he
would support it if elected. The White House wouldn't let reformers
include it in the stimulus package or in Obama's first budget. The White
House suggested the issue could proceed as a stand-alone measure
(guaranteed to fail). On this important reform, the president stands with
the sharks.

The Democratic Party ignores its left-liberal-progressive base with some
regularity because it knows it can. Politicians understand they will
suffer no consequences afterward. The galaxy of mediating organizations,
including organized labor, that surrounds and supports the party may stomp
and holler, but they do not attempt any retribution that might alter their
relationship with power. Reform organizations will not withdraw their
support, either money or rank- and-file voters. Nor will they seek to
punish any of the wayward Democrats who regularly vote against them with
opposition at the next election. The "white hat" reformers are Washington
insiders themselves, with a seat at the table and influence on the
substance of the party's agenda. They do not want to put their status at
risk.  Politicians know this from long experience. So do the reformers.

The warped dynamics of the Democratic Party may have sufficed when the GOP
was ascendant and the goal was restoring a Democratic majority.  But now
the majority party resembles a dysfunctional family, badly in need of
outside intervention. I say this with sympathy, having known and admired
many of the reform activists for many years. Some of them are suffering
from a political version of the Stockholm syndrome.  Their good intentions
are brutally compromised by identifying with the limited imagination and
nerve of the Democratic Party.

In some ways, the politicians are prisoners too - captives of the money
politics and the expensive mass-marketing that requires them to raise so
much money and thus rely on the moneyed interests. Representatives and
senators know how the system works and what they need to do to survive.
Now and then, they may try to win one for the folks, but mostly they are
resigned to the confinements of the status quo. So long as activist groups
will make no attempt to break out of this pattern or penalize incumbents
for disloyalty, the party will continue to stiff the faithful.

                        Moral Awakening

Given all the adversities facing the country, I conclude that meaningful
"intervention" is plausible only if it originates with people at large who
are more distant from power. I envision the intrusion coming from many
"independent formations" free to ignore Washington's insider routines and
mobilized by citizens on behalf of their own convictions, their
common-sense ideas of what needs to be accomplished. This alternative path
is a central theme of my new book, Come Home, America. I describe
(somewhat wishfully) how self-directed organizations might develop the
power to break through regular politics and overcome the usual barriers.

These groups could function, not as a third party nor as standard "issue"
advocates, but as a mixture of these capabilities. They could act like
free-roaming guerillas who educate and agitate; like a political party
that selectively destabilizes safe-seat incumbents by entering party
primaries or running independent challengers; like a representative
organization that can demand political relations through direct
confrontations or even civil disobedience. This development sounds
implausible, I know, especially in Washington. But our crisis demands a
more aggressive response from citizens - something that threatens the
power of both parties and makes them insecure.

As it happens, a rough facsimile of what I envisioned is arising now in
the politics of financial reform. A network of fourteen community
organizations, based in cities from Boston to Washington, DC, and across
North America, has come together in alliance and intends to force a moral
awakening on the narrow thinking of the status quo.  These citizens are
developing a political-action agenda around one theme - usury - as the
efficient expression of the abuses and injustices associated with banking
and finance. These are interfaith organizations affiliated with the
Industrial Areas Foundation and composed of citizens who are white and
black, affluent and working poor, whose local organizations are based in
churches and synagogues, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and others.

Usually, their political action is local and succeeds regularly in
building relations with public officials that produce real change in
communities. This time, given the crisis, these IAF groups are attempting
something they have not done before - building the voice and influence to
join the national debate and change its terms. I sat in on one of their
organizing meetings near Baltimore and was asked to contribute my views on
the shape of the problem.

"Are you ready to be born again? And again? And again? Do you have the
imagination? Do you believe it?" The call was from the Rev. Hurmon
Hamilton of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church in Boston, and he inspired the
100 or so community leaders. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for,"
Hamilton declared, "the evidence of things unseen."

                       Outlawing Usury

The Rev. David Brawley of East Brooklyn Baptist described a preliminary
statement of basic principles. "Reasonable interest rates," he said. "In
this financial culture, the nation will return to a time-honored, indeed
ancient, practice: the law against usury.  Financial institutions and
mechanisms that participate in this culture will agree to a maximum of 9
percent interest or so. This was the usual state-mandated rate before the

Brawley described other principles with radical implications. "The lender
holds the loan," he explained. "The financial institution that makes a
loan holds the loan for its duration. The borrower and lender enter into a
long-term relationship that ends when the loan is fully repaid. This is
the fundamental starting point for any return to accountability." That
statement of principle challenges the market securitization of mortgages
that falsely claimed to reduce risk by dispersing it among many investors.
The process instead left no one responsible for sound lending and thus
multiplied the costs of failure.

Brawley's final principle was perhaps most threatening to the existing
order. "The federal government insists on these core characteristics as
the criteria for all further bailout funding. Banks that wish to borrow
from the government must accept these simple standards [and] provide
consumers with an alternative to the current monopoly of financial
transactions dominated and still dictated by the same fifty financial
institutions that caused the crisis."

In other words, the social standard of usurious practices should define
which banks and financial firms are eligible to participate in all forms
of government aid and protection. Why should taxpayers finance the usurers
who are injuring the society? The government's undiscriminating approach
to aiding banks implicates everyone in supporting the usury. So do the
banks and brokerages that collect people's savings and channel the money
into usurious practices that produce greater returns by ruining more
borrowers. The moral standard poses difficult questions for everyone, not
just bankers and politicians.

Arnold Graf, national organizer for the IAF, argues that the moral
question can lead people to confront a deeper debate about the future.
"What is the kind of society we want to have?" Graf asked. "That's really
what we want to talk about - transforming the society. We're not going to
get transformation from the president and Congress. It can only come from
the people themselves."

These IAF organizations expect to try different tactics to spread the
message and engage the people with power who make decisions. That means
directly confronting elected representatives but also the banking
institutions with famous names. The alliance hopes the moral principles
will mobilize people of faith but also students and workers and investors.
Following the example of the civil rights movement, people of conscience
have to find ways to turn up the heat on the established order and
discomfort the silent citizens who are passive and indifferent. This
effort, Graf assumes, will probably take years, not months. Leaders of the
community organizations are aware of the risks. They are attempting a leap
into the unknown and they might fail. No one listens, nothing changes.
They accept the risk because they too have asked Hillel's question. If not
now, when?

 2009 The Nation William Greider is national affairs correspondent for
The Nation. He is author of "Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal
Reserve Runs the Country " and, most recently, "Come Home, America: The
Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country ."


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